Earlier today, I joined campaigners from Keep Our NHS Public (South West) to hand over the 38 Degrees petition against the planned closure of the Sidwell Street Walk-in Centre in Exeter to NEW Devon CCG
The petition was launched at Exeter Respect and KONP (South West) managed to get well over 6,000 signatures in just over three weeks.
We met in the grounds of Newcourt House on the edge of Exeter, where the Eastern Locality Board were due to have a meeting.
Geoff Barr, Chair of KONP (South West), attended the meeting and afterwards he told me that the Clinical Commissioning Group Chair seemed unmoved by reason.
It seems that more pressure may be needed.
Some notes from Geoff Barr
Why keep the walk-in centre open?
Thousands of people want it open. We have collected well over 6,000 signatures on the petition to keep it open.
Where do the signatures come from?
– Respect Festival. The petition was launched here on 6th June.
– Anti-Austerity event on 13th June in Exeter
– Sidwell Street outside the Walk-in Centre – thanks to our team who spent many lunch hours attracting signatures. It was not difficult as the results show.
– Churches across the city from several denominations.
– Doctors waiting rooms.
– Community centres.
– Other places too numerous to mention.
– On-line collection thanks to 38 degrees and thanks to Andrew for organising this.
Behind this lies the feeling of the people of Exeter. We had less than 4 weeks to accumulate the names. We could not reach most of the population of our city.
Why should we keep the Walk-in Centre open?
This is not some conservative instinct to preserve an old service just because it is familiar. It is a service that has proved its worth in the many people we approached who told their own stories. One was the person working with people dependant on drugs and homeless people. He pointed to the need for a place that these hard to reach people could find health services. The Walk-in Centre is vital. The busy workers from out of town who cannot access their GP. The mums who find that a fortnight’s wait for a GP appointment is intolerable were another group. Then we saw some of poorest people in Exeter. They often had disabilities and the thought of going to the hospital meant a long trudge or an excessive bus fare. Several people needed dressings replaced. Their GPs were simply overwhelmed and could not do this work in time. Again and again we found that this centre offered a quick and efficient service.
Healthwatch Devon is the official voice of health service users in the county. It undertook an assessment of the two Exeter Walk-in Centres. It used a questionnaire and interviewed a number of users of the service in some depth. The result is the same as our less systematic finding. People value the service.
We note that the hospital has faced enormous pressures on its accident and emergency services. Indeed it has had periods when it failed to see every patient within the four hour target. Closing this Walk-in centre will pile more pressure on the hospital.
The service is popular; it is needed by patients and the health system of Exeter and east Devon. In a time when government NHS England and health professionals say that the voice of patients must be heard we insist that you listen and drop the plans to close this valued service.
Some responses to the petition against the closure of the Sidwell Street Walk-In Centre.
“It’s the finest thing – the staff have all been very good to me with my troubles.”
“It’s such a good place, really helpful people.”
“It’s disgusting, they shouldn’t cut down on people’s health. It’s accessible to all – young girls wanting help – the GU clinic – they don’t want an appointment with the GP which would take weeks, they can just walk in.”
“Even if the GU clinic stays it won’t be used as much because it’s stigmatising to be seen walking into one, whereas you can go into the Walk-In Centre and nobody knows what service you’re going to.”
“It’s really good, it’s really handy having it here. I can use it from work whereas I couldn’t get to the GP without losing time off work.”
“I can’t believe it!”
“Let’s hope it stays, it’s very convenient.”