Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell said she presently opposes plans to close the Station Health Centre until health bosses come forward with concrete proposals to ensure there is adequate town centre GP provision and help for the vulnerable.
Caroline held a Zoom meeting with the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) chief executive Jessica Britton and others to be told the public consultation on the closure is being independently analysed ahead of a report to go to the CCG for a decision in December.
She was also told the ‘super’ practice, currently being built in Old Town, plans to have a town centre-based satellite and there are proposals for GP presence at the Salvation Army base where support is provided to the homeless in the town centre.
“I have received a clearer picture of the CCG’s thinking in what was a very constructive meeting but my concerns on how those in the town centre will access GP services and the walk-in element of the station centre for the vulnerable very much remain if this centre is closed,” said Caroline.
“I am happy to hear about plans for a satellite surgery and the involvement of the Salvation Army but these are just that – plans. Nothing is concrete and until there is more information and firmer plans and funding in place, I cannot support the closure of the Station Health Centre.
“I would also oppose the closure of the centre before any new satellite practice opens. The town centre is set to undergo one of the biggest population increases in Eastbourne due to new development, if not the biggest, and these new town centre residents need to have town centre access to GP services going forward.
“My fears there is not enough GP capacity in the town centre have not been allayed.”
Caroline told the CCG she recently met with the Station Health Centre providers who told her it had reopened its GP list since the summer because demand was not being met elsewhere in the town.
The CCG said it would go back to the Station Health Centre providers for further information and the MP and the CCG will meet again next month.
“I am very happy the CCG is working hard with myself and with others in the town to look at this issue and I am happy to amend my view if more information and firmer proposals to ensure we have the proper GP provision are given. However, at the moment, I simply will not support closure.”
Others on the meeting were: East Sussex CCG medical director Paul Deffley, Chair of the Eastbourne Hailsham and Seaford Area GP Patient Participation Group (PPG) David Bell and Liz Walke, Chair of the Save the DGH, Eastbourne Borough Council Hospital Champion and Deputy Chair PPG.
Liz Walke added: “I was heartened to hear about the proposals for NHS services in the town centre but further clarification is needed before the Station NHS services are changed, closed or removed.
“Currently all town centre GP Practices have either capped or closed their lists to new patients. We need more town centre GPs not less. It is our view that further public consultation is needed but not in the middle of this pandemic.
“We would urge that no decision is taken to change, relocate or remove any NHS services until this pandemic is over and we are clear what NHS and GP provision will be located in the town centre.
“We are so pleased the local NHS seem to be listening and have agreed to further meetings.”
Councillor David Tutt has also commented on the proposals to shut the centre “Having met twice with members of the NHS Trust, I am not pursuaded by their reasons for the closure of the Walk-in Centre at the Railway Station, nor by their assurances over future provision for those who rely on the service it provides. I believe that they need to listen to the feedback that they have received from local people and maintain this vital facility for our town”.
Editor’s Note: I attended an online meeting recently in which the CCG explained their reasons for closing the centre, and I don’t believe their arguments stand up to scrutiny or that they have a full understanding of the impact it’s closure will have on the town. The CCG argues the centre is a replication of other services, which is not true as it is the only walk-in centre available in the town except for A&E, do we really want more pressure on that service? The centre is also often the only surgery that can be accessed by the most vulnerable in our town, the homeless community, people living in temporary accommodation, people with mental health issues or disabilities that make it hard to pre-book appointments and also visitors to our tourist town. Its position and accessibility make it unique and invaluable. I desperately hope the CCG make a decision to keep it open, we really can’t afford more pressure on our local surgeries, and the fact they are considering it’s closure during a global pandemic is unconscionable.