The cutting of the out-of-hours emergency service at St Luke’s hospital in Market Harborough is probably a false economy, says a leading local health campaigner.
Cllr Phil Knowles said the change would also put extra pressure on local GPs.
The “urgent care services”, offer GP and nurse appointments when GP practices are closed – on weekday evenings, at weekends and on bank holidays.
Under the new plans, from April 2019, St Luke’s emergency service facility will not open from 5pm on weekdays, but from 6.30pm – a loss of seven-and-a-half hours a week.
NHS East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group says St Luke’s was duplicating services provided by local GPs.
But Cllr Knowles is not convinced.
“Firstly, Market Harborough is a growing town, and the spare capacity St Luke’s apparently had will soon be taken up” he said.
“I’m convinced they’re going to have to re-visit this decision before very long, having taken out this “futureproof” capacity.
“And secondly, I’m not convinced local GPs will be able to take extra patients walking in off the street.
“They may well have to employ extra staff.”
The NHS plans, announced following consultation with the public, are a watered-down version of the original cuts.
The original plan also had reduced hours on bank holidays and weekends.
Meanwhile, patients in Lutterworth will benefit from an urgent care centre with extended opening hours.
The town’s GP out-of-hours service, which is currently open from 10am to 4pm at weekends and on bank holidays, will operate extended opening hours from 9am to 7pm at weekends and on bank holidays.
It will also be made easier for patients to access the service, with options to walk-in, appointments offered via NHS 111 or pre-booked via their GP.
Tim Sacks, chief operating officer at ELR CCG said: “We are keen to ensure that our urgent care services meet people’s needs while providing high-quality, cost-effective services.”
Housebound patients will continue to be able to access a 24/7 urgent care visiting service by calling NHS 111.