It looks like the Station Plaza NHS walk-in centre has been saved and the local Labour party is claiming credit for the victory after a vigorous campaign by Labour and union activists.
Last year health bosses had threatened to close the centre and relocate its services to the Conquest Hospital but a series of protests – and the signatures of more than 5,000 local people on both paper and online petitions – persuaded them to change their minds.
Now the centre looks set to remain a vital resource for the town says Peter Chowney, Labour parliamentary candidate for Hastings & Rye and leader of Hastings Borough Council.
The Urgent Centre Review Board a sub committee established by East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) has approved recommendations by Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to retain the walk-in centre facility at Station Plaza.
There’s just one more hurdle to cross as that decision needs to be rubber stamped by NHS England. If that happens – as expected – next month, the centre will become what is known in NHS as an ‘integrated health hub’. That means it will become easier for patients to get definite appointments by booking on phone via NHS 111, rather than waiting hours to be seen.
We have still have a significant shortage of GPs
Mr Chowney said: “This is good news. But I remain concerned about health services in Hastings and Rye.
“We have still have a significant shortage of GPs, staff shortages in our hospitals and rumours of proposed closures of services at the Conquest.
“This together with cuts to NHS budgets, resulting in regional re-organisations, will leave Hastings with less of a voice in the future of its healthcare services.”
The Station Plaza centre has been vital for patients not able to register with a GP. A significant minority of patients have complex medical needs, including mental health issues.
The centre will stay open seven days a week from 8am to 6.30pm. In addition, the special needs of patients will be met more fully by bringing on board other care agencies.
Campaigners argued vocally that most people who use the walk-in centre would have found getting to and from the Conquest Hospital difficult and costly. During the campaign it emerged as a major issue with a return journey to the Conquest by bus for a parent and ill child could cost up to £7.90 and require a change of buses. Bus journeys to Station Plaza from Hollington and Ore are easier and cheaper.
Demand for the centre has increased over the last few years and especially when when the Cornwallis practice closed 18 months ago, resulting in 17,000 patients needing to register with other GP practices.