Created: Friday, 01 July 2011 14:40
Written by FRFI
In Newcastle, the government’s widely ridiculed ‘listening exercise’ on the Health and Social Care Bill means little to people who are already finding it difficult to access essential healthcare services. The city centre walk-in centre, which last year treated 19,591 patients, and employed 26 staff, closed in May. The service was funded by the Department of Health, but delivered by private provider Care UK, with a contract value of £7 million. Figures on exactly how much Care UK made from the centre are not available as they are deemed ‘commercially confidential’, but overall the company draws 96% of its income from NHS contracts. In January 2010 company Chairman John Nash was exposed for donating £21,000 to the office of now-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, and the company is doing very nicely out of privatisation. Recent contracts include a £53 million contract to deliver services to prisoners and young offenders. The reason given for the closure of the walk-in centre in Newcastle was ‘cost-effectiveness’. The closure of a centre treating thousands of patients has been dismissed offhand: ‘we felt that the existing GP practices and NHS walk-in centres that are now available across the city provide a level of service that meets the needs of people’ (Dr Mike Guy, Medical Director NHS North of Tyne). The fact that patients will have to travel further to visit a walk-in centre, or book appointments with increasingly oversubscribed GPs, is dismissed as irrelevant in the face of ‘considerable cost pressure which would need to be found from another service area’.
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