Health bosses in Sheffield will next week recommend a rethink on controversial proposals to shake up urgent care facilities in the city.
If the recommendations are accepted, the future of the walk-in centre on Broad Lane and the minor injuries unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital will be secured for a further two years – until at least September 2020.
A final decision will be taken by the Sheffield clinical commissioning group (CCG) next Thursday and, if agreed, a further period of consultation has been earmarked to begin next summer.
The consultation on the proposals – which finished in January – received thousands of responses from members of the public and a petition to save the services was signed by more than 10,000 people.
Now, the CCG has responded to what they heard, and – while they still believe their approach is the right one – they have decided to recommend putting the plans on hold for a further two years while they consider other options.
The deputy director for commissioning for Sheffield CCG, Kate Gleave, said: “We are clear that the urgent treatment centre is still the right approach. People recognise the benefits of having and injury and an illness service in the same place.
“But there was strength of feeling from the public around siting the service at Northern General Hospital and we recognise people’s perceptions around the lack of clarity of what we were trying to do.
“Some of the feedback raised questions about whether there might be benefits from alternative suggestions that might outweigh the benefits that we think there are with our proposal. We think we need to take the opportunity to explore those.”
Kate said one of the things that came through clearly in the consultation was people’s desire to have improved access to GP surgeries.
She said they believed the proposal they put forward gave people that, but acknowledged many people still weren’t convinced.
“It is about testing it out and saying this is what we give you with this proposal and this is what we give you with another proposal,” she said.
“Which do you want because you can't have both. Part of the conversation we need to have going forwards is that you can't have everything so what is more important to you?”
Politicians across Sheffield warmly welcomed the news.
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, in whose constituency both under threat units were situated, said: “I’m pleased that the CCG have listened to the concerns that I raised, along with my fellow MPs and many local people.
“We should be making urgent care more accessible, but these flawed proposals would have taken us in the wrong direction.”
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, who had previously called the plans ‘reckless’ and ‘short-sighted’, said: “I'm pleased the CCG has listened to the thousands of people who expressed serious concerns about the closure of these vital services.
“Hopefully now we can work together to design the best possible provision for Sheffield and not rush ahead with ill-thought through plans that would have hurt lots of people in Sheffield. This goes to show the power of campaigning when we come together.”
And prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam, Laura Gordon, said: “This is fantastic news for the thousands of people who rely on these crucial services.
“I'd like to thank the thousands of people who responded to my surveys and petitions on this and I would like to thank the CCG for engaging with us and taking these concerns seriously.”