Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Scrutiny of Reading's new NHS "Walk In" Centre

As Chair of Reading Borough Council's main health overview & scrutiny committee - the Housing, Health and Community Care Scrutiny Panel since 2008 I have taken a keen interest in improving public access to good quality health services. Poor health in Reading is closely linked to real poverty and sadly many people lack health facilities on their doorstep and families find it difficult to get appointments to see GPs etc at times that suit them without going a long distance. I have been campaigning for a couple of years now on the need to get action taken to reduce health inequality in Reading - which was recently revealed to be the worst in Berkshire by independent inspectors. All the evidence shows that improving health outcomes is closely linked to improving access to free healthcare and good quality medical advice.
Residents in my ward in Redlands are lucky as most of them live quite close to the excellent Royal Berkshire Hospital. However, I have been concerned for some time about residents who live in parts of South and West Reading who are not so lucky.
The NHS Walk In Centre which was set up last year in Broad Street Mall in the Town Centre was set up in an attempt to address this gap in provision. The idea is simple - you don't need to be registered or to have an appointment to get treatment or advice. It sounds great as a concept but I have to admit I was a bit sceptical when the idea was first mooted as I was concerned it would be a 'polyclinic' and could post a threat to existing GP services. However, the feedback I have received from the PCT so far has been very positive. As Chair of the HHCC Panel I requested a report be presented to councillors on Thursday 11 March to review the impact of Reading's NHS Walk In Centre . We will be quizzing Berkshire West PCT, commissioners of the new service to find out whether or not the new service is doing what it was set up to do: improve access to NHS services to the highly-mobile population of residents living, working and shopping (!) in the Town Centre and improve public health.
Have you used this new service? If so, we'd love to hear from you about your experience. Please drop me an email daisy.benson@reading.gov.uk The meeting is kicking off at 6.30pm in the Kennet Room at the Civic Centre. The meeting is open the the public and if you would like to ask a question to the PCT about the service you can please get in touch.
Sadly two other health projects that could help improve access to services have still not come to fruition - in Whitley and Battle. The PCT has long identified other parts of Reading including Whitley need additional services to meet growing demand in the community. Residents living in and around Oxford Road are still waiting for the new Battle Health Centre to be developed - something Reading West Martin Salter MP and Battle councillor Tony Jones campaigned for all those years ago. It was supposed to be built in 2009. Back in 2004, Martin Salter said:"Local doctors' surgeries are pretty full around here and there is a need for more NHS dentists as well as a range of specialist services that can be delivered locally without people having to trek across town to the Royal Berks," he said. "It is great news that Reading PCT has identified the Battle site for a local centre." I agree with Martin - delivering services locally is what's needed - it reduces the need to travel and ensures everyone gets fair access to those services. The major fly on the ointment as far as this scheme is concerned is that it can only be built when the housing on the former Battle Hospital site is sold. The recession is basically to blame. This is a great shame. A lot of local residents must be feeling very disappointed about this after all the promises from Labour both locally and nationally. It must be disappointing for Martin Salter too that the Centre won't be built during his time in Parliament as Member for Reading West after his campaigning on this issue. I will continue to campaign for better access to healthcare for all Reading residents irrespective of where they live, and continue to press the PCT and the Council at every opportunity to speed things up on the ground.


The PCT has supplied us with a written report on the NHS Walk In centre which we will be discussing at the scrutiny panel on Thursday. Some interesting facts from the report:
  • Between August 2009 and February 2010 13,778 patients had consultations at the new centre
  • 59% of those patients live within Reading
  • Patients attending are mainly indicating convenience is the reason they visited the centre
  • The top four medical issues presenting are: upper respiratory infection, medication and skin infections and contraception
  • 78% of patients attending are aged between 16 and 65
  • 95% of patients are seen within 30 minutes
  • 90% of patients are reporting satisfaction with the service

No comments:

Post a Comment