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'A fair share' is the call from MP and councillors protesting health centre closure

Monday, 30th July 2012.

Town councillors, residents, staff and town MP Matthew Hancock all registered their protest at the closure of the Crown Health Centre on Saturday and their demands for a share of the savings to be allocated to Haverhill.

NHS Suffolk closed the centre, after three years in operation, on Saturday, claiming it had not attracted many patients to register and not reduced A&E admissions at local hospitals, two of the main aims of setting it up.

It will save NHS Suffolk 1.2million a year, although that organisation will soon be defunct anyway, its place being taken by the newly-formed West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group in April next year.

Mr Hancock and local councillors want the savings to be dedicated to improving healthcare in Haverhill and, in particular, enabling local GPs to deal with the additional pressure created by the Crown closure.

Sporting purple T-shirts which claimed NHS had 'stolen' 1.2million from the people of Haverhill, councillors gathered outside the centre's portable buildings off Withersfield Road for much of the day.

Mr Hancock joined them around lunchtime and spoke out for wwhat he called 'a fair share' of the savings to come to Haverhill.

He drew hope from the fact that the new commissioning group would be Bury St Edmunds-based, rather than Ipwich-based as NHS Suffolk is, and said he had already been in contact with them.

"I have already been knocking on their door and I will continue to knock on their door," he said.

It has already been announced that 500,000 will be spent on re-vamping the Haverhill Health Centre in Camps Road when the new group takes over next year.

But Mr Hancock said this was just a one-off capital hit which, while welcome, would not address the long-term pressure being created on the town's GPs.

He called for the 'fair share' of the saving to come in the form of ongoing money to improve the service for patients.

Councillors claimed it was already virtually impossible to get an appointment with a doctor in Haverhill in under three days.

Town mayor Pat Hanlon said this was not the fault of the doctors but because of the pressure of population, which was still growing rapidly. Although only 900 people registered as patients at the centre, there had been over 22,000 walk-in visits a year.

Cllr Maureen Byrne said many patients were 'in despair' about how to access the care they needed.

Several examples were put forward and residents with relatives who needed regular treatment for such diseases as cancer spoke of their concerns about what would now happen out of surgery hours.

The Crown centre had been a walk-in clinic open from 8am to 8pm and at weekends. Now they feared more people would have to go to A&E.

Staff of the centre, who have had the axe hanging over them since January, also registered their concerns for patients.

They said many were 'devastated' by news the centre would close, and they feared for their future care.

Haverhill Online News

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