Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Leader of the Opposition, has written to the Chief Executive of Oldham Council, Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE, to raise a number of concerns and questions about the proposals being taken forward in Oldham in the provision of GP and urgent care services.
Under the proposals, urgent care hubs will be created in five health centres around the borough, replacing the town centre walk-in centre which will close. Patients are also promised greater access to their local GP and a single telephone number to call with enquiries.
In his email, Councillor Sykes is seeking reassurances that there will be in reality a better, more accessible service for patients, particularly those that he and his Liberal Democrat ward colleagues represent in Shaw and Crompton, and that there are firm plans to finally replace the existing aging Crompton Health Centre which Councillor Sykes describes ‘frankly far from fit-for-purpose’ and a source of ‘resentment’ when local patients see ‘the facilities provided daily to their neighbours in Royton’.
The email reads
Dear Dr Wilkins,
I have several questions that I would like please to pose for you.
Will the single telephone number that is promised for patients to contact be an Oldham wide number?
My concern is that this will be overwhelmed by calls and staff will be unable to answer them promptly.
This has been the situation with the Police 101 number.
How will calls be managed – will they be answered centrally or will callers be automatically routed to their own GP surgery or their local ‘urgent care hub’?
Under current proposals, five new hubs will be designated as ‘Urgent Care Hubs’, each serving around 50,000 people.
Am I right in assuming that the Royton Health Centre will be one of the five new ‘urgent care hubs’?
Shaw and Crompton are paired with Royton. Given that Royton has a new health centre and we do not, I am assuming this will lead to the Royton health centre being designated the hub also for Shaw and Crompton, despite the public transport links being poor or not existent?
Where does this then leave the prospects for the future replacement of Crompton Health Centre which frankly is far from fit-for-purpose?
The people of Shaw and Crompton continue to feel badly let down by the NHS and this Council because of their failure to replace this centre a long time ago and their resentment builds with every month that passes without action, especially when they see the facilities provided daily to their neighbours in Royton.
What guarantee will there be under current proposals that there will be an adequate after-hours service and that patients will have greater access to GPs, particularly outside the hours of 8-6 weekdays?
At present many of my constituents wait days or weeks before they can access a GP of their choosing at a time that suits them. This leads them to present at the Walk in Centre or A+E.
Under current plans, the town centre LIFT walk-in centre will be closed when the new hubs are open.
As this must be one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the property portfolio of our local NHS, what plans are there to reuse part, or all, of the building and what will happen to the equipment and people that are in there.
Has an audit been carried out recently of all NHS properties in our Borough, whether owned or leased, to determine whether all buildings are used to the utmost for treatment or ancillary purposes or whether they can be sold off to generate capital to reinvest in remaining buildings and services? If so can this information be shared with me?
After the Walk in Centre closure, what will prevent patients from simply presenting to A+E for urgent treatment, rather than waiting to be seen by a GP or at the hub?
Can you give a guarantee that with the establishment of the hub, the A+E Department at the Royal Oldham Hospital will not be closed or its services reduced or downgraded?
I shall look forward to receiving your responses.