Future of Katie Road NHS Walk in Centre – still in doubt

Nearly 80 local residents filed into the Elim Church Centre in Exeter Road, Selly Oak, last Thursday night, for the latest round of discussions on the Katie Road NHS Walk in Centre. The saga has been ongoing for nearly 18 months now since local MP Steve McCabe discovered that the Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group and the Health and Well Being Board were engaged in discussions which cast a doubt over the future of this popular and extremely well used health facility.

The latest event was part of a ‘pre-consultation’ process which the managers of the Clinical Commissioning Group have decided to undertake prior to a further and full consultation on their precise proposals between September and November 2014. Steve McCabe said, ‘this must be the most consulted upon local health issue I’ve ever encountered. Nonetheless I’m determined that my constituents will have their say and be heard by those who are making the decisions on our health service.’

The meeting was attended by Dr Gavin Ralston, Chair of the Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Barbara King (Chief Accountable Officer), Dr Louise Lumley (Clinical Lead for Urgent Care) and Dr Diane Reeves the Chief Accountable officer for Birmingham South and Central CCG who is leading a review into Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Despite all the previous discussion, Dr Ralston made it clear that he was not yet able to put any concrete proposals on the table which was a source of some frustration for many of those present with one resident demanding to know exactly what a pre consultation was and what they were being asked about. This seemed to boil down to: leave things as they are; expand the services at Katie Rd; or move the Walk in Centre to the QE Hospital.

Those present were adamant that they fear the QE option which appears to have no public support but is constantly being raised by others. On a show of hands, the meeting roundly rejected the QE option with many people pointing out the existing difficulties in getting to the QE, the cost of parking and the confusion with A&E which such a move might generate.

Other major concerns at the meeting included the risk of privatising health facilities (Katie Road Walk in Centre is currently run by SouthDocs a local cooperative); lack of GP appointments; worry about what is driving any new tender proposals, particularly cost factors; and the absence of weekend cover which is already a major issue and likely to get worse for thousands of people without access to the Katie Road Walk in Centre.

The medical team admitted their concern about the existing problems with A&E and Dr Ralston conceded that he had got the message ‘loud and clear’ that local residents really valued the Katie Road Walk in Centre and wanted to keep it.

Steve McCabe said:

‘Once again we’ve had a huge turn out from the local community. If the decision makers are paying attention they can’t have failed to notice just how strongly people feel about this issue. I am glad that the CCG representatives agreed to meet local residents and listen to what they had to say but it is really time we sought to bring this saga to a close. At a time when A&E waiting times are spiraling and GP appointments are becoming harder and harder to access, the last thing people need to worry about is the prospect that a valued, local service which works really well is going to be taken from them. If the CCG are listening then they should rule out the closure of this facility now.’

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