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Second roasting for Suffolk health chief over walk-in centre closure

Friday, 27th April 2012.

Claims by an NHS Suffolk chief that Haverhill has just as good a range of medical services as the rest of the county were greeted with jeers and laughter by a public meeting yesterday.

Martin Royal was making a second attempt to justify the closure of the Crown heath centre when he came to speak at the public forum of One Haverhill at Samuel Ward Academy.

When the closure was first proposed he received a very rough ride from a public meeting at the Arts Centre, held as part of the public consultation process.

Now NHS Suffolk has decided to go ahead with the closure, Mr Royal had been summoned back to answer questions about the future, and how the 22,000 walk-ins the centre deals with a year would be catered for.

NHS Suffolk will save the 1.2m a year it cost to run the centre, but is only pledging to put 800,000 back into Haverhill, and much of that into other areas like dementia care.

The reasons for closure include the failure of the centre to achieve any reduction in hospital A&E visits from Haverhill, which was one of the prime reasons for it being set up.

Mr Royal managed to anger the meeting several times, first by insinuating many of the walk-ins were unnecessary because people were not taking enough personal responsibility - and he cited the case of a person attending to have a plaster put on a cut finger.

His audience told him they considered this an 'insult'.

Later he went on, in answer to questions, to say: "Don't tell me you don't have as good a range of medical services in Haverhill as elsewhere in Suffolk.

"You have three GP practices, a range of pharmacies and dentistry."

People had complained that, although such facilities as X-ray and ultra-sound had been promised for the Crown centre, they had never been provided.

Mr Royal denied that any such promise had ever been made.

Margaret Marks asked for the statistics of A&E attendances from Haverhill, which she said she had asked for five times without success, and Mr Royal said he did not have those available, but would find out and send them on.

The meeting thought it was curious he did not have them to hand as they were the basis the centre had been set up in the first place.

He had also been asked for these statistics at his last appearance in Haverhill and been unable to provide them then either, but had said he would send them on.

Former town clerk Gordon Mussett said he had discovered a third of A&E attendances went on to become admissions, and a third went on to X-rays. Mr Royal said he did not have these figures available to him.

Mr Mussett asked if it was true that the ambulance service only hit its target times 66 per cent of the time in Haverhill. Mr Royal said he did not know.

Mr Mussett replied: "You were at the same meeting as me when those figures were put into the public domain."

Mr Royal was not alone as a target at the meeting, because Dr David Lee of Harmoni, which provides the town's out-of-hours service, was also present to defend changes and suggest how his service would cope with the closure of the centre, to which they had been directing calls until its closure time of 8pm.

Dr Lee admitted the closure would have 'an impact' on the service. He said: "We will be working closely with the primary care trust to understand what the likely profile of activity will be."

Mr Royal said some of the cash being directed into Haverhill from the centre closure would be to try to ease pressure on appointments at the general practices in the town.

Haverhill's MP Matthew Hancock, who attended the meeting, told people at the end that NHS Suffolk had received an extra 24million fromthe Government this year.

He said: "They make out they haven't got the money to be able to put the full 1.2m saving back into Haverhill. That is just not true."

Haverhill Online News

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