A Tory Health Minister was slammed on Tuesday for dismissing closures of NHS walk-in centres.
In a letter to the Health Secretary seen by The Huffington Post, Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth called remarks by Philip Dunne on walk-in centres, which are places where the public can receive urgent care for minor ailments, “especially ill considered”.
Dunne told MPs on Tuesday walk-in centres had been established “in a random way” by the previous Government, and needed to be located “more appropriately’.
His comments came as a response to a question by Labour MP Keith Vaz who said a walk-in centre in his constituency of Leicester East was being closed and moved to another area.
In a letter to Jeremy Hunt Ashworth said Dunne had “fluffed his opportunity to reassure the House” about the future of primary care in the UK.
During a Commons debate on Tuesday Vaz said: “In Leicester, the CCG is proposing to close a walk-in centre in North Evington and move it to another part of the city. Rather than being a walk-in centre, it will become a drive-in centre. Does the Minister agree that it is important that local people are consulted fully on the proposals?”
In response Dunne told MPs: “A number of walk-in centres were established under the previous Government in a random way, and they need to be located more appropriately for local people.”
In a letter to Hunt about the exchange, Ashworth said MPs “were surprised” by Dunne’s comments.
“In recent weeks people across the country have raised with me their worries about the threat to local services in their area,” he said.
“In 2014 Monitor reported that 50 NHS walk-in centres had already closed under your government.
“I am now aware that a number of walk-in centres across the country including in Leicester, Bury, North Tyneside, Middleborough, Redcar, Colchester and Accrington could also close. They are understandably the focus of campaigns by local people wanting to protect the services they rely on.
“I’m sure you will agree Mr Dunne’s remark were especially ill considered given A&E attendances are at an all time high this winter and thousands of people are having to wait over four hours to be seen.
“With 33 full A&Es apparently proposed for closure under the STP process, there is a clear and growing concern from the public that walk in centres are also closing without national co-ordination, consultation or oversight by your Department.
“The Minister of State fluffed his opportunity to reassure the House today. Could you therefore please provide me with a list of the walk-in centres which were randomly established and are needing to be relocated, so that I can provide an update to colleagues and their constituents?”
The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.