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NHS chiefs make commitment to keep walk-in centre in the heart of Norwich

PUBLISHED: 06:30 03 May 2014 | UPDATED: 08:44 05 May 2014

Norwich MP's Simon Wright and Chloe Smith outside Castle Mall where the the Timber Hill Health Centre is under threat of closure. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich MP's Simon Wright and Chloe Smith outside Castle Mall where the the Timber Hill Health Centre is under threat of closure. Photo: Steve Adams

The future of a walk-in centre has moved a step closer to being secured after NHS chiefs made a pledge to continue the valued facility in the heart of Norwich.

Support for NHS health centre

Support is flooding in from across the Norwich area calling on NHS chiefs to retain a walk-in centre in the heart of the city.

• Mike Jennions, of Waller Close, Norwich said: “Castle Mall is easy to reach from Thorpe St Andrew by bus or car. The NHS can ill afford relocation costs. I have only recently registered at the practice and it suits me very well. Nearer practices were all full and were not accepting any more patients.”

• Emily Etheridge, of Mulbaton, said: “I have used this facility three times in the past 18 months for a quick diagnosis and prescription. If it wasn’t there I would have to wait and bother busy doctors and nurses at the hospital A&E department.

A city centre location for a walk in centre is a necessity.”

• Eileen MacQuinn, of Thorpe St Andrew, said: “The walk-in centre needs to be in the centre of Norwich for easy access. This facility must ease the strain at the N&N.”

• John Hewitt, of Mulbarton, said: “It needs to be kept central to the city. It is an important point of call for so many people who stand no chance in seeing a GP when they need to see one.”

• Julie Brown, of Gage Road, Norwich, said: “I have used this walk-in centre many times- especially for blood tests as my own doctors medical practice do not do them any more. I find the location easy to get to using buses as I don’t drive. I have found the staff very friendly and helpful.”

• Hayley Johnston, of Northumberland Street, Norwich, said: “This needs to be kept in the Castle Mall. If we have tourists visiting and they are in need of medical care, they know where the Castle Mall is and its easily accessed.”

Norwich’s two MPs met with officials from NHS England and Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) yesterday to discuss Timber Hill Health Centre after a question mark was raised over its current home in the Castle Mall

The owners of the shopping centre, InfraRed, submitted a planning application last month for a restaurant quarter on level four, which would evict the health centre. However, a second application was issued to move Timber Hill Health Centre to a larger empty shop unit on level two, which has been rejected by Norwich Practices Ltd (NPL) because of refit costs.

NHS chiefs yesterday said three options were on the cards to keep the walk-in centre and registered GP practice in Norwich.

They are:

• The NHS’ preferred option is for the current lease in the Mall to be extended.

• Discussions are ongoing about NPL relocating to a different unit in the shopping centre.

• Another option is to relocate the health centre to temporary units somewhere else in the centre of Norwich until a permanent solution is found. Several sites have already been examined, said officials.

Katie Norton, the director of commissioning for NHS England in the East said: “We have listened to the concerns of local people and we would still urge the owners of the Mall to extend the lease. We know the health centre is highly valued and we have a shared commitment to continue its services in the city centre.”

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said she had called another meeting in a couple of weeks to ensure progress was being made.

“I am very pleased to have secured the NHS’ commitment to retaining a walk-in centre in the city. We have heard their commitment loud and clear that they want something in the city centre. I want that to be as long-term solution as possible and I clearly want it to be affordable to the tax payer and to benefit walk-in patients and patients on the registered list.

“Although it is certainly not over yet, this is a positive step,” she said.

Simon Wright, Norwich South MP, said it had been a constructive meeting.

“I am more confident than I was at the start of the day and people are working in the same direction that the city centre is the clear location for the service. There is a clear commitment from all stakeholders to keep it within the city and that is a very positive outcome.”

“The immediate need is to know where it is going to be and I am very pleased that people are moving towards it being in the city centre. There is an urgent need for it to be resolved in a couple of weeks,” he said.

Jonathon Fagge, chief executive of Norwich CCG, added: “We want to ensure that the population in Norwich continues to have access to high quality, accessible and convenient care when they need it, and we will continue to work with NHS England to secure its future.”

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