Squeezed NHS must close dozens of services
70 facilities across UK to be shut or downgraded Six A&Es under threat from reorganisation plans
Dozens of A&E units, GP surgeries and walk-in centres have been earmarked for closure because of the NHS’s money problems, understaffing and modernisation plans, a report released today reveals.
NHS bodies have decided in the last four months alone to shut or downgrade at least 70 services across England, the campaign group 38 Degrees has found. They include maternity units and several community hospitals, which are meant to take the pressure off acute hospitals, which often struggle under the weight of patients’ demand for care.
The urgent care centre in the centre of Walsall is likely to close, even though it opened only last year at a cost of £1m, under money-saving plans being considered by the town’s NHS clinical commissioning group. The CCG wants to shut the centre to save £951,000 in running costs because, it says, not enough patients go there to justify it staying open.
The decision has yet to be confirmed after a public consultation found that 88% of respondents opposed closure and just 8% backed it. The potential loss of a facility that treats 120 people a day has sparked local protests.
Critics warn that it will leave Walsall’s other urgent care centre, at Manor hospital, unable to cope with extra demand. The CCG says that too few patients use it and that many who do can go elsewhere for help, including to a local pharmacy or calling NHS111.
“Cuts and closures are being made and threatened to frontline NHS services across the country”, said Holly Maltby, a campaigner with 38 Degrees.
“It is clear from these findings that the impact of NHS underfunding is being felt across England and access to services is under threat of being compromised.”
Six walk-in centres, two sexual health clinics and one children’s service are also on the list compiled by 38 Degrees. The walk-in centre closures include the facility in Lincoln, which is the only service of its type in Lincolnshire. Lincoln’s Labour MP, Karen Lee, who is a former NHS nurse, has voiced serious disquiet about the plan, as have local council leaders.
Patients may have to travel further to see a GP or other doctor, maternity units are being closed to new arrivals at short notice and there is less support at home for people with mental illness, she added.
The six A&Es that are under threat as a result of plans to reorganise urgent and emergency care include those at Grantham hospital in Lincolnshire, Poole hospital in Dorset, and Huddersfield royal infirmary and Dewsbury and district hospital, both in Yorkshire.
The A&E at Weston hospital, in Westonsuper-Mare, Somerset, ceased functioning between 10pm and 8am from July because it could not find enough staff to provide care that was safe for patients. And the emergency department at King George hospital in Ilford, Essex, is due to be downgraded to an urgent care centre in 2019, though council leaders and local MPs are campaigning against it.
Seven mental health services or teams are at risk of closure, despite mental illness being a government priority. They include Newholme hospital in Bakewell, Derbyshire, which will go as part of the local NHS’s plans to provide more care closer to patients’ homes. A total of 104 community hospital beds will also go.
The closure of nine different GP practices will force the 45,000 patients affected to find new GPs, 38 Degrees says.
Details of the closures come a week before the budget. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, is under pressure to give the NHS more cash than originally planned. NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, wants an extra £4bn, much more than the £700m that ministers plan.