A grassroots group set up to try to save Corby’s precious Urgent Care Centre has reacted with surprise and delight at the news that the facility’s existing services have been saved for at least three years.
Following months of furious public disagreements, a judicial review and a community campaign to keep the service open on a walk-in basis, the town’s clinical commissioning croup backed down yesterday and agreed to look for a new provider to run the UCC from May 2019 until May 2022.
It means that, as long as a provider can now be found, the much-loved centre will remain open and accessible to everyone in the town and its surrounding area.
Maria Bryan of Save Corby Urgent Care action group said: “It’s very good news for Corby.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the detail of the contract so we can be sure it’s exactly the same level of service.”
The Save Corby Urgent Care Centre action group was set up by a group of people in the town 14 months ago after it emerged that the town’s well-used urgent care centre may be at threat of closure because of a row over funding between the provider Lakeside Plus and the commissioner, Corby CCG.
Although that threat passed, it later emerged that the CCG was planning to downgrade services from a walk-in facility to an appointment-only system.
The observation bays would also be lost and people who did not have a Corby GP would no longer be able to attend.
Critics said this was just a glorified overflow GP service designed to plug gaps left by the town’s inadequate number of GPs.
The Save Corby UCC action group then asked for a judicial review to challenge the lack of consultation on the changes.
The judge agreed that the CCG had promised to consult, but had then failed to carry out the consultation.
It meant that the CCG could not then make the changes it wanted to without a full public consultation.
But then yesterday, just two hours before the CCG’s AGM, the commissioning group issued a press released revealing they would now be seeking an organisation to provide the same level of service at the UCC for the next three years.
The CCG has never had any direct contact with the action group, and now members are hoping for better dialogue between the two parties.
Lyn Buckingham, of Save Corby UCC said: “It’s a start. There are bridges that now need building and they need to open up the lines of communication.
“I am slightly worried that they see this now as a challenge but we will have to see what happens.”
At yesterday’s AGM, Northants Healthwatch chair David Jones said that public confidence in the CCG had been knocked after the judicial review outcome. He asked how the commissioning group now planned to re-engage with the public.
Director of commissioning and strategy Caron Williams said: “Some people have had their voices heard a lot more than others through the engagement work that we did.
“A large majority of our population did want a different service.
“It left us in a position, once the ideas started to formulate, that we were not at a level that warranted consultation.
“The judge was very clear that the changes that we proposed were not significant which is why we can say that we can continue the service we have.”
Ms Williams also promised to extend engagement to people who ‘wouldn’t normally engage’ with the CCG.
Meanwhile, the Save Corby UCC group have been asked to act as a case study for the Consultation Institute. The organisation is a not-for-profit best practice institute promoting high-quality consultation in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The news comes as CCG’s and NHS Trusts up and down the country consult on their own cuts as they feel the squeeze of pressure on services in the context of tightening funding.