John Peach on the Urgent Care Review and Alma Road Surgery

As a longtime opponent of the closure of the Alma Road Walk-In Centre, Conservative Cllr John Peach welcomes the news that NHS Peterborough will immediately review its entire urgent care provision, effectively putting the closure of the surgery on hold, and he calls for an inquiry into the decisions taken within the Primary Care Trust over the last few years, culminating in the enormous financial deficit that they now face. The BBC’s Paul Stainton talks to Cllr Peach at 08:23 on Wednesday 29th September 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PS: But first we’re about good news and bad news this morning. This could be good news. All urgent care services are being reviewed, including the threatened Alma Road Surgery of course, as we’ve mentioned many many times. But Alma Road and Parnwell Surgeries were facing closure. But they may be able to stay open. (MUSIC – THE CLASH – SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO). It’s all part of NHS Peterborough’s attempts to make twenty three million pounds worth of savings. Is it going to stay? Or is it going to go? It’s been going. Then it’s been staying. Then it’s been going again. What’s happening? Councillor John Peach has been campaigning to keep Alma Road open. Morning.
JP: Good morning.
PS: Is it going or is it staying? What’s going on?
JP: Well we hope that it’s staying. Obviously the PCT, the Primary Care Trust, seem to be in a complete mess. They’re in financial problems. Their Chief Executive resigned last year. The Chairman of the Board resigned. They do need to find some money, and some savings. We all recognise that. But I’ve been campaigning along with the patients and the doctors and staff at the Alma Road Surgery, and I’ve also been to the public meeting about the possible closure of Parnwell. And in both areas there’s a very big and strong public reaction to the consultation and the possible closure. And what we’re saying is that you don’t want to consult on closing individual surgeries on a one-off basis, you want to look at the whole provision in the area, and see perhaps if there are doctors’ surgeries in the area that are not in very appropriate accomodation, don’t have good car parking facilities, don’t have good medical facilities in them, perhaps buildings where the lease is about to run out, and they’ve got to move or close anyway, or where the GPs in that particular service are coming up to retirement age, and look at it all as a whole, not just pick these surgeries off one by one.
PS: It seems to me as well with this that NHS Peterborough can’t make their minds up. We need to save money. If we’re going to close it, get on with it. Close it and suffer the consequences. But it seems to be an inordinate fudge going on all over the show. If it’s staying open, tell us it’s staying open. If it’s closing, tell us it’s closing.
JP: It does seem a history, over the past few years, of very poor management and very poor decisions in the PCT. And there really ought to be some inquiry looking into that, and the financial mess that they’re now in. But as regards the Alma Road Walk-In Centre, we don’t think that it would have actually saved them money.
PS: And it’s quite unique as well.
JP: That’s right. It’s unique. It’s open from eight o’clock in the morning till ten o’clock at night. There are GPs there, unlike the Centre on Thorpe Road that has very few GPs there. It’s mostly nurse-led, the Walk-In Centre on Thorpe Road. And also of course, if you close Alma Road, you’d have more people going to Casualty at the Hospital, which is about three times as expensive. So in the end, you wouldn’t save any money.
PS: Yes. But these cuts have to fall somewhere John. You know, we’re going to keep Alma Road open, we’re going to keep Parnwell open. What are we going to get rid of? What are we going to close? Where are we going to save the cash? If you were in charge of the PCT, where would you be looking to save this twenty three million?
JP: If I was in charge of the PCT, and I don’t want the job, but if I was in charge I would do what I’ve been urging the PCT to do, and that’s think again and look at all the surgeries in the city centre type of area, and look to see if there could be more appropriate savings being made. I don’t think you’ll save any by closing Alma Road at all, because as I say it just pushes people on to the A&E at the Hospital. And in the case of Parnwell, it’s a very very popular, very small, one man surgery, and people don’t want that surgery to close, particularly when the bus links to the city are not good. So look at things in the round, and not just pick off the one or two odd surgeries.
PS: The PCT, NHS Peterborough, are saying now that all urgent care services are under an eight week review. What do you suspect might happen at the end of that, with Alma Road, and in the wider sense?
JP: Well I don’t know. The PCT seem to be saying that Alma Road is now safe, and they’re looking at even the possibility of new accommodation. So that would be good news. If they’re looking at those sort of services, I think they also need to look, which apparently they are doing, at Thorpe Road Centre, and seeing the staffing levels there. Because I believe the Walk-In Centre on Thorpe Road has about three times as many staff, and are only seeing just slighly under double the patients. So obviously the staff ratio is much more at Thorpe Road than it is at Alma Road. That’s another area where you could probably cut some costs.
PS: But hopefully some good news for Alma Road.
JP: Hopefully good news for Alma Road, and for Parnwell.
PS: Yes.