...you will be sadly missed by many. A tragic loss to the community. So cruelly taken away...
So, today, 28 February 2013, the Ilkeston Family Practice and GP Walk In Centre no longer exists.
And who would have thought it would have happened? We certainly didn't - because it shouldn't have.
After the news broke in the media on 27 November, it then took a further seven days before NHS Derbyshire sent a letter to patients affected. They even back-dated the letter, to try and make it look like they hadn't forgotten us, but emails gained through the Freedom of Information Act proved that the letter was incorrectly dated. It was apparent at this point, that this was a very badly managed project. If they were prepared to lie about the date of a letter, what else were they trying to hide?
When news broke, it caused a lot of anger within the town of Ilkeston and beyond. This was a vital service, and for it to be taken away in less than 12 weeks time, without any prior communication or consultation was unacceptable.
A campaign team quickly formed, and the battle began. We launched a website, a facebook account, a twitter account and a petition - so everyone could have a voice, and share their views - something which NHS Derbyshire chose to ignore.
Two public meetings were held by NHS Derbyshire, to which more than 200 people attended (despite one being in an evening a week before Christmas and the other with only six days notice). The meetings could only be described as shambolic. Residents from Ilkeston and beyond, young and old, gathered to raise their concerns, share their views and demand answers to their questions, whilst giving possible solutions to the issue. They got nothing. The representatives from NHS Derbyshire caused confusion, gave out inaccurate information, and failed to present any credible argument for the closure.
So, what are their 'published' reasons for the closure? There are three that they have regurgitated and spun over the past three months:
- the Centre was a duplication of service. NO - this is not an acceptable justification. The centre WAS the only service outside of Nottingham and Derby to provide access to a GP 12-hours a days, seven days a week, 365 days a year - and without an appointment. 84 hours of access to a GP per week. All other surgeries within Ilkeston offer less than 40 hours access per week.
- the Centre was under-utilised. NO - the 'targets' that were generated for the Centre were produced at a national level, when walk in centres were first established, and are based on no scientific reasoning. In addition, some local GPs had been very critical about the opening of the Centre as they saw it as a threat to their business. As a result of this, it was agreed that the Centre would not force patients to register, but still have full access to the care offered. The Centre played a big part in supporting access to patient care to other surgeries across the Erewash region. In addition, no advertising was carried out, in order to work in harmony with GP surgeries.
- the Centre was 'financially unviable' - NO - we now live in an age where we measure the price of everything and the value of nothing. Not everyone has access to a car in Ilkeston. Not everyone can afford to pay £40 for a taxi journey to and from the Walk In Centre in Nottingham or Derby. This Centre saved lives. This centre is NOT financially unviable. It is a cheaper alternative to A&E departments, it is a cheaper alternative to Out of Hours Doctor. It is a cheaper alternative to an ambulance journey. Enough said.
In less than 12 weeks, more than 5,000 people signed a petition against the closure, more than 1,500 people joined the campaign on Facebook, 300 people followed us on twitter, there was media coverage every week - even Ilkeston-born TV star Robert Lindsay got behind the campaign to say no. Hundreds of letters were sent by frustrated patients to NHS management, to our MP, to the media... the list goes on.
And guess what they did? Yes, that's right. Nothing. They ignored their patients. They refused to clarify any issues. They tried to pretend we didn't exist. And remind me... who pays their wages?
So today, our much loved Centre, which has saved many people's lives, and improved the quality of healthcare provision to Erewash residents over the last four years no longer exists. And do you know what else no longer exists? Our trust and faith in NHS management...