Round table: 'Closing NHS units in Sheffield will free up cash for improved access to GPs' say bosses
Two vital NHS services will have to close and relocate in order to improve access to GPs in Sheffield.
That's the message from Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group as health bosses, campaigners, councillors and residents met to discuss planned changes to urgent care across the city, hosted by The Star.
A consultation is underway to gather opinion on the closure of both the city centre Walk-in centre and the Minor Injuries Unit at the Hallamshire and move them move to the Northern General in Fir Vale.
The move is deeply unpopular with many in the south of the city citing transport and accessibility problems.
CCG bosses Kate Gleave and Dr Tim Moorhead were both keen to stress the main focus of their plans was to improve access to same day GP appointments.
Plans would see GP surgeries group together to offer a patient a same day appointment.
But the money would be taken from closing the Walk-in centre and Minor Injuries Unit to do this, NHS bosses said. No cash is being cut but will be 'moved around'.
Kate Gleave, deputy director, strategy and integration at Sheffield CCG, kicked-off the round table event and explained why change was needed.
She said: "The over-riding message that has come back from all of the groups and research is access to GP appointments is really difficult - particularly on the same day.
"There are lots of places that provide urgent care, some for minor illness, some for minor injury, some for children, some for adults, some for both and the message we've heard is it's quite confusing. Patients don't know where to go or when to go in many cases.
"From a provider point of view, we have significant workforce challenges across the city. They aren't as bad as some areas of the country but over the next three to five years, we won't have enough GPs in the city if we carry on as we are."
City ward Coun Douglas Johnson agreed with the notion of improving access to GPs but said the consultation was the 'wrong way round'.
"Wouldn't it be sensible to bring in the changes regarding access to GPs? Get more people on the phones for a start and then further down the line look at the Walk-in centre and Minor Injuries Unit?
Elaine Ingram, a resident and user of NHS services in Sheffield raised concerns about the plans and told she had discussions with NHS staff about the move.
Access is really important - I have used the minor injuries before and it is a fantastic service relatively central for all residents. Wouldn't it make more sense to run a marketing campaign to advertise a vital service like this instead of people clogging up A&E?
"I don't know who you've been speaking to but I used the Hallamshire recently and the staff I spoke to did not what to go to the Northern General - there are genuine concerns there."
Sheffield Save Our NHS campaigner Sylvia Hardy urged the CCQ to 'think again' on the plans.
"It seems to be the CCG is trying to put together rational analysis in a public consultation. Sheffield Save Our NHS group - we've talked to over 5,000 people in the last couple of months and there is enormous anxiety about the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit.
"I don't think these concerns are being addressed and I'd urge the CCG to stop and think again."
Health campaigner Geraldine O'Connor added: "I'm worried about the most vulnerable in society including the homeless and other people who will be affected in terms of services being moved further away from their homes.
"This consultation is a tick-box exercise, you have to do it to consult the public but the consultation is skewed - there is no option for services to remain in the centre of town where people from all four sides of the city can access fairly.
John Carlisle, from Sheffield Save Our NHS group said his 'perspective had changed' due to the 'lack of information' on changes to accessing same day appointments for GPs.
"I have changed my perspective some what in what the CCG want to achieve. It's now a case of moving away from the medical arena into the political one.
"We need to help the hospitals the CCG in the city to get the Government to help us achieve what Sheffield needs and not what national guidance says. You need to get access to GPs right first because the other changes don't matter until then."
Coun Steve Ayris, shadow cabinet member for health on Sheffield Council, brought forward a motion in a meeting back in November speaking out about the plans.
He's called on parties across the Town Hall to come together on this issue.
"Cross-party cooperation is needed from all councillors to change the CCG's minds particularly on those access issues to the Walk-in Centre, the scaling back on the eye clinic and the Minor Injuries Unit."
Deborah Cobbett, also from Sheffield Save Our NHS, raised concerns about the infrastructure at the Northern General to cope with extra demand.
Thank you for extending the consultation, but my cynical feeling is the CCG are desperate to accept decision to close the Minor Injuries Unit.
"After speaking to thousands of people - we haven't found anyone who has said closing and moving services under one roof is a good idea.
"People who live near the Northern could be benefited but they're saying it's already under so much pressure already in terms of the hospital and the infrastructure around it."
Douglas Johnson, Green party councillor for City ward added: "The big issue that everyone is talking about is the closure of the Walk-in and the Minor Injuries Unit - that's deeply unpopular and the difficulty is that's not up for consultation.
"What is being consulted on is three options that are basically the same and what doesn't come out at all in the consultation which the CCG were really keen to stress today is about changes to accessing doctors.
"The big problem is when you need an urgent appointment, you can't get through to your doctor - that's what needs to change."
Dr Tim Moorhead speaking after the event said: "What's come across for me is perhaps we haven't been clear enough about the changes we want to make to urgent access to GPs which is the most important part - that is where most urgent care happens in the city.
"We have some other changes which we will need to make in order to make that happen like the changes to the Walk-in centre and the minor injuries unit - we've had a good debate about that today."
THE CHANGES AS DESCRIBED BY THE CCG IN FULL
Change the way people get urgent GP appointments
Groups of GP practices will work together to offer urgent appointments within 24 hours. People will be assessed to decide if they need to see their own GP or can be seen by at a different GP practice in their local area.
Change where people would go for minor illness and injuries
Currently, there is a walk-in centre in the city centre which treats minor illnesses and a minor injuries unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital that deals with adult minor injuries, while children with minor injuries are seen at the emergency department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. These would be replaced with two urgent treatment centres at Northern General Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital which would treat both minor illness and injuries and offer booked appointments as well as walk-in appointments.
Change where people go for urgent eye care
Currently adults needing either urgent or emergency eye care are seen at the Emergency eye clinic at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. In the future, urgent appointments would be offered at opticians and other clinics across the city with extended opening times making it easier for people to get care closer to where they live. Emergency eye care (sight-threatening conditions) would continue to be provided at the Hallamshire.
Improve the way people access services
These changes would be supported by an improved system where people can contact their practice or 111 and be assessed over the phone. They will then be booked an appointment or signposted to the right place for the care they need.