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Council fury as health centre closure is brought forward

Tuesday, 22nd May 2012.

The Crown Health Centre in Haverrhill is to close even earlier than proposed.

The practice and NHS Suffolk hav agreed it will now shut on July 28 at midnight, not October as originally planned.

The decision has been branded as 'a disgraceful insult to the people of Haverhill' by Haverhill Town Council.

Martin Royal, NHS Suffolk director of corporate services, said: "We have learned from the engagement exercise that there needs to be improved access to GP appointments.

"We are working with GP practices in the town to offer support through this change, and will monitor the changes very carefully.

"Along with the rest of the public sector, the NHS has a duty to make sure it stays within budget. While the staff at the Crown Health Centre did an excellent job, we did not see the rise in numbers of registered patients or a drop in the numbers of people going to accident and emergency we expected.

"Haverhill is an important town, and patients will get their share of funding over the next year for services such as dementia, carer support and a new telephone service for urgent care and more health checks aimed at keeping people healthy."

NHS Suffolk said urgent GP out-of-hours doctors will still be available when the local surgeries are closed and there will still be a base where people can be invited in for appointments.

The pods will remain on the car park to give healthcare staff office space during this transition period.

The Crown Health Centre was established in 2009, with temporary planning permission, and with the aim of reducing attendances at hospital A&E departments.

The centre has £1.2million annual running costs and would face a projected £500,000 cost to move to a permanent location.

The town clerk Will Austin issued the following statement today on behalf of the council: "This latest decision to close the Crown Health Centre three months earlier than originally proposed is a disgraceful insult to the community of Haverhill.

"NHS Suffolk has taken no action whatsoever to help the registered patients and other users of the Crown.

"This will leave people without the information they need in order to access urgent health care – their lives are quite literally being put at risk.

"NHS Suffolk needs to explain how this decision fits with their stated aim of providing 'a health care system that helps people to be and to stay healthy and provides high quality accessible health care when they need it'.

"The irony of this statement is not lost on the people of Haverhill, who will now regard it as a sick joke.

"Despite a Freedom of Information request we have been provided with no information on how the closure will save money without putting our health at risk.

"Furthermore, there has been no announcement of additional funding to cater for the loss of urgent health care, and there have been recent reductions in out-of-hours support.

"Locally it is regarded as standard to have to wait two weeks for a GP appointment. To Haverhill it feels as though there is now an active campaign by NHS Suffolk to undermine the health of its residents.

"These decisions are being made many miles from our town, without proper understanding of its health care needs.

"The Crown was set up in recognition of these needs, and the decision to close it recognised that they have not gone away. It therefore beggars belief that there is to be no alternative service after the closure.

"To announce that more money is to be spent on services such as dementia and carer support is a smokescreen – this will not help provide urgent care, and we all know it is money they would have spent anyway.

"The new telephone service also announced is not a replacement for the Crown, and urgent medical support and diagnostic equipment will remain at least 40 minutes away.

"We know that the ‘Darzi’ walk-in centres are not liked by NHS Suffolk, who saw them as a political imposition when they were first announced.

"This is not an argument that the people of Haverhill want to be involved in – they just want straightforward access to urgent care. Whether or not the Crown was the right solution, NHS Suffolk has a duty to make sure that this care is provided in the town.

"In just a few hours of campaigning in Haverhill, the town council has over 2,000 signatures in support of this position, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that the overwhelming majority need no persuasion.

"Indeed, even those who oppose the idea of a Darzi centre are appalled by the summary removal of the service without proper alternative provision.

"The uncaring approach to this matter is further typified by the fact that staff at the Crown Health Centre – who are at risk of redundancy – were not advised of the early closure by their managers, and instead discovered their fate via a press release on their website.

"Haverhill Town Council calls on NHS Suffolk to:
 Explain why they need to reduce spending on urgent health care in Haverhill by £1.2m a year, when they have been given an addition £24m by the Government;
 Hold an urgent public meeting of their board, in Haverhill so that they can see and hear about the impact their decision will have;
 Delay the closure of the Crown until detailed and robust plans are in place that ensure people can access urgent health care, and know how to do this.

Our campaign for Haverhill to be properly catered for will continue, and our voice will become louder as the closure approaches.

"We have the support of the community, our MP and the local media, and will do everything we can to defend the people of Haverhill from this attack on their health care by the very organisation that exists to protect them."

Haverhill Online News

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