THE decision to push back the deadline for responses to a public consultation into a major overhaul of urgent care services in Worcestershire has been welcomed by health leaders in the county.

At a meeting at Worcester’s County Hall on Tuesday, March 11, members of the Worcestershire Health and Well-Being Board welcomed the announcement earlier this month that the consultation into the county's Urgent Care Strategy had been extended to Wednesday, April 9.

Although the consultation was initially due to close on Wednesday, March 19 after concerns were raised that this was not enough time for people to properly scrutinise the plans, the deadline was extended by three weeks.

The strategy has been developed by a collaboration of NHS organisations across the county and sets out the future of urgent care services over the next three years in the face of falling budgets and increased demand.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting associate member for the voluntary and community sector Sally Ellison said it was important the plans were properly scrutinised.

“This is really important and I’m not sure up until now that lots of people knew it was going on,” she said.

But she expressed concerns about one of the key elements of the plans – the proposed closure of the Worcester Walk-In Health Centre in Farrier Street.

“Some of the people who use it are rough sleepers who can’t register with a regular doctor,” she said.

“For these people the walk-in centre is a godsend.

“The ability to go in at 1pm and get an appointment for 3pm is something you can’t get at your GP.”

If the plans are given the go-ahead the centre will stop accepting ‘walk-in’ patients from August, although it will continue to operate as a GP practice for registered patients.

But David Williams from NHS England said other elements of the plan – including provision to make services available seven days a week in order to reduce the pressure on A&E – would make the centre surplus to requirements.

“The proposal is making changes to the walk-in centre to give us money to invest elsewhere,” he said.

“We are not taking money out of the system altogether.”

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