SHADOW health secretary Andy Burnham MP has written to NHS England to protest against the closure of Worcester’s walk-in health centre.
The walk-in element of the centre in Farrier Street – which is used by 15,000 patients a year – could close in August under an extensive reorganisation of health services in the county.
But critics have said the plans will place even more pressure on A&E at a time when departments are already under significant strain.
Mr Burnham – who served as health secretary in Gordon Brown’s government – penned the letter to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens after visiting Worcester last month.
The MP for Leigh said in his letter he was concerned the proper guidelines regarding consultation into the plans had not been followed.
“The main reason for me referring this to you is that I am concerned that established consultation processes may not have been followed in this case which could set a worrying precedent in the NHS,” he wrote.
“I recently visited the area and was made aware of deep public concern about the proposals.”
The plans are part of the Worcestershire Urgent Care Strategy, a major revamp of medical services in the county which includes creating a new Urgent Care Centre at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, which health bosses have said will make the walk-in centre redundant.
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Worcester Cllr Joy Squires said: “I am extremely grateful for Andy Burnham’s support on this crucial issue as are the people of Worcester."
Chief clinical officer with South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Carl Ellson said the increasing amount of people registering with the centre as their GP practice had made it increasingly difficult for walk-in patients to see a doctor.
“We’re proposing to re-allocate the money that is currently used to fund the walk-in element of the centre to provide additional resources at the front door of our busy A&E department," he said.
“We wish to set up a new Urgent Care Centre, where patients can be treated by an experienced nurse, GP or emergency doctor, without an appointment, for minor illnesses and injuries.
"Myself and other local GP colleagues who work with the CCG believe this will be a more effective use of NHS resources and will actually help to take the pressure off our busy A&E department.
“We’ve recently completed a nine week consultation on the proposed changes to local urgent care services and are currently reviewing the responses before making a final decision.
“Our local countywide health scrutiny committee were pleased with the work that we have done on this, and commented that it was a model exercise for future engagement work.”
The plans have been developed by a collaboration of health bodies in the county and are due to be finalised soon. If they go ahead the centre, which has 4,400 registered patients, will remain open as a GP surgery.