BY YANN TEAR
Residents in Hammersmith and Fulham are being urged to air their concerns about NHS plans to cut GP appointments and urgent medical care in the borough.
Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for local health services, is proposing to reduce the number of GP appointments available via ‘hubs’ and to close overnight access to the urgent care centre (UCC) at Hammersmith Hospital.
Urgent care centres are for minor injuries and illnesses and do not require appointments. Their cost-cutting plans are the subject of a consultation, which closes on May 24, and Hammersmith and Fulham council is keen for objections to be registered.
At the moment, residents can book to see a GP in the evening or weekends at one of three hubs across the borough – the Parkview Practice in Bloemfontein Road, Brook Green Medical Centre in Bute Gardens and Cassidy Medical Centre in Fulham Road.
The CCG wants to reduce this to a single hub, to save money, but it would inevitably increase travelling time for many and limit the appointments available, says the council, which is opposed to the proposals.
People who need urgent medical attention between midnight and 8am can also go to Hammersmith or Charing Cross Hospital’s UCCs. Under the plan, the only option for patients would be Charing Cross, which is 2.4 miles from Hammersmith Hospital.
The CCG argues that Hammersmith and Fulham is the only borough to have two urgent care centres so close together and that of nearly 33,000 patients who were seen by Hammersmith’s urgent care centre, only 48 people a week came in between midnight and 8am.
They say nine out of 10 patients are sent home without needing any serious treatment. Most are only given advice or simple medication. Four members of staff are employed on the overnight shift and the CCG believes the money could be better spent.
It costs £600,000 a year to open the Hammersmith UCC overnight, it says. Their preferred option regarding the hubs is to reduce to just one. It would save the NHS £265,000 a year, they say.
But Cllr Ben Coleman, cabinet member for health and adult social care at Hammersmith and Fulham council, said: “Even though out-of-hours GP appointments at the hubs are poorly advertised, 260 people a week use them.
“Cutting Hammersmith’s overnight urgent care centre, which is used by nearly 50 people a week, goes back on the promise health bosses made when they closed Hammersmith Hospital’s A&E.”
“Local people worked together with the council to save Charing Cross Hospital from closure. I urge residents to make their views known on these proposals.
“They will make things more difficult for residents and just shift costs to Charing Cross Hospital – and there’s no plan for how it will cope with the extra numbers.”
To comment on the CCG’s plans, log on to https://www.hammersmithfulhamccg.nhs.uk/your-voice/consultations-and-events/public-consultation.aspx