Row over plans to close Eastbourne health centre despite pandemic

Politicians and campaigners are demanding plans to close the Eastbourne Station Health Centre are scrapped – particularly in light of the covid-19 pandemic.

Friday, 28th August 2020, 12:28 pm

Concerns have been raised about GP spaces and the plight of homeless people, as a consultation into its closure continues.

Eastbourne Councillor Alan Shuttleworth said, “Even before covid-19 they could not justify closing the service, which caters for 3,400 patients. Other town centre GP practices are full.

“There will be inadequate GP provision in the town centre, especially with increased housing in the aftermath of covid-19.

East Sussex Save the NHS protesting against the planned closure of Eastbourne Station Health Centre

“To pursue these proposals without taking full account of the wider impact of covid-19 is sheer folly.”

Councillor Shuttleworth also said the practice is proving a ‘vital service’ for many homeless people in town, who have no fixed address.

Without the walk-in centre, he says, there will be more pressure on the DGH as health problems escalate.

Eastbourne council leader David Tutt said, “Whilst there is a need to evaluate patients’ future needs as a result of covid-19, this should be based on evidence and considerations of the wider implications from this health crisis, including mental health and the likelihood of a significant increase of people with complex needs, many of whom will be living in our town centre.”

Meanwhile, campaigners from East Sussex Save the NHS have been holding protests against the proposals at Eastbourne station.

They take place each Thursday at midday and are socially-distanced, with those taking part told to wear facial coverings.

Lucette Davies, of East Sussex Save the NHS, said, “Eastbourne’s population now needs the proposal to close their walk-in centre to be re-examined in

light of the dramatic changes to the town’s health.

“It has been a privilege to talk to so many people in the town and hear so many incredibly moving stories of why you want to keep our walk-in centre.”

To date the campaign says it has collected 2,271 signatures online and 2,067 on paper for a petition against the proposed closure.

Lucette said, “But Covid-19 has hit our town and is still with us. Waiting lists for treatments, including cancer treatments, have grown dramatically.”

The group is calling for a primary care needs assessment to be done before any further changes are made to GP and other primary care services are considered.

Dr Paul Deffley, medical director for East Sussex CCG said, “We recognise there are natural concerns about any changes to the NHS services, and currently, at a time when the NHS has seen significant change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is even greater concern about access to health care.

“I would like to assure people the purpose of the consultation is to continue our dialogue with local people.

“We have set out why we believe the proposed changes are the right steps to take to ensure people can receive the right care, in the right time by the most appropriate health professional.

“We are confident we have good access to GP services across the Eastbourne area for local people, and through new and innovative ways of working these GP practices are able to offer a wide range of high quality services to their registered patients.”

Mr Deffley said the CCG is assured there is access to GP services for local residents now, and there are also plans for the future – including the new Victoria Gardens Medical Centre which is expected to open by Spring 2021.

He said, “We recognise that GP services have been affected during COVID-19 and that may make some people concerned about ongoing access, but I would like to reassure everyone that our practices are open for business, and importantly they are offering face to face appointments as well as telephone triage and support.

“It is important to remember that GP practices are just part of the wider picture of health services if you need urgent help and care – 111, our urgent treatment centres where you can walk in and A&E for serious medical needs.

“Finally, I would like to say no decision has been made and the very reason we have restarted the public consultation is to hear from local people, especially in light of the pandemic, to understand concerns, questions and areas where we may need to consider further.

“I would encourage people reading this to visit our website, find out more about our proposals – there is a question and answer section which provides more information on areas raised here such as healthcare for people who are homeless, and have your say – we would like to hear from you.”

The consultation runs until September 14. Visit eastsussexccg.nhs.uk