The Light: NHS Leeds walk in centre to close
Yorkshire Evening Post | By Katie Baldwin
Published on Thursday 16 June 2011 07:22
A WALK-in centre tailored to provide NHS health care to commuters in Leeds city centre is to shut – because it wasn’t used by enough of them.
The facility at The Light shopping centre on the Headrow will close later this year after the Government decided not to renew the contract of the company running it.
Six commuter walk-in centres, run by private firms providing NHS care, opened across the country between 2005 and 2007 – four are now shut.
The Leeds centre, operated by BMI Healthcare, opened in 2007. It will close when its contract runs out in November. It was open every weekday and aimed at those working in the city centre but figures showed only 22 per cent of users were actually commuters.
NHS Leeds bosses said a panel of experts, including GPs, had agreed to ensure there were enough healthcare services available elsewhere following its closure.
Philomena Corrigan, executive director of strategy and commissioning at NHS Leeds, said the contract for the centre was with the Department of Health but NHS Leeds managed it.
“The Department of Health does not intend to continue delivering services from commuter walk-in centres and this means the Leeds centre will close on November 30. The walk-in centre was commissioned to have a focus on commuters but they have not been the primary users.
“In fact, only 22 per cent of users in the year October 2009 to September 2010 were categorised as commuters with the other 78 per cent of users being from the local area.”
She added that since the centre opened, other services had expanded, including the creation of West Yorkshire Urgent Care Services, a walk-in centre and GP practice at Burmantofts Health Centre had opened and opening hours had been extended at other NHS walk-in centres at Middleton and Wharfedale Hospital in Otley as well as at some GP surgeries.
There is also a GP practice in the Light which is run separately and will be unaffected.
A patient watchdog group said it was important to ensure there were adequate health services.
Maureen Idle, of Leeds Hospital Alert, said: “Although we were opposed to private providers in the health service, if they are shutting the centre and even a small number of people have been using it, what are they putting in place for them?”
A Department of Health spokesman confirmed they were no longer contracting services from any commuter walk-in centres – based in London, Manchester and Newcastle as well as Leeds – apart from possibly one in the capital.
The spokesman said: “The Government is moving away from the type of contract that ties the NHS into spending money unnecessarily. Any decision to re-let a contract for such a centre is entirely a matter for local commissioners.”