Welwyn Garden City urgent care centre has proved confusing for Welwyn Hatfield residents, say CCG

PUBLISHED: 12:32 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:26 20 August 2019

The urgent care centre at QEII in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: NHS.

The urgent care centre at QEII in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: NHS.

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Welwyn Garden City's urgent care centre has proved confusing for Welwyn Hatfield residents, according to the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The CCG's CEO Beverly Flowers told a meeting on Thursday that they have found during the engagement process - on whether to close the New QEII UCC from 10pm to 8am - that some people thought the QEII had closed completely.

The group, which commissions NHS services in east and north Herts, also said people did not know they could call 111 and have a GP come to their house if needed.

The CCG said most medical questions can be answered by the free 24-hour phone service, but patients will also be directed to an out-of-hours doctor, a late-opening pharmacy or the urgent care centre.

Herts county councillor Margaret Eames-Petersen - who represents the Hatfield North division - also asked if those in mental health crisis could instead be treated at night at the UCC.

Ms Flowers responded by saying that Stevenage's Lister and New QEII do not deal with this type of emergency, but encouraged people to call 111 to be directed to a team of professionals.

It does appear some residents near Welwyn Garden City have been told not to go to the UCC.

North Mymms parish councillor Mia Americanos-Molinaro said five to 10 residents, mainly elderly people, have approached her to say they have made a phone call to the NHS and were told to go to Stevenage's A&E Lister Hospital instead of WGC's UCC for minor ailments.

The Welwyn Hatfield Times also received a letter detailing the experiences of one man, who was told as the UCC had neither a doctor or district nurse at night that a catheter could not be fitted.

Another Hatfield resident aired his frustration, a few months ago, about one night he went with his daughter about an ear infection and was told a similar story.

Sheilagh Reavey, director of nursing and quality at the East and North Herts CCG, responded to this criticism by Ms Reavey, saying: "What we would say to do in that situation is to call 111."

It was also argued during the meeting by CCG CEO Ms Flowers that the two advanced highly-qualified nurses, who are treating patients at the UCC during the night, could be best served by moving to Lister.

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Ms Flowers also explained that the UCC is being correctly used during the day - even better than the old A&E service at the old QEII - but at night it sees less than one person an hour.

However, according Welwyn Garden City resident Dr David Templeton, this is due to the lack of GP appointments being available locally. "You have to wait three to four weeks for an appointment," he said.

Ms Reavey also reassured residents there was no intention of removing the New QEII, stating "patient care is at the front of this proposal".

The CCG maintains it has not made this proposal lightly and has leafletted 140,000 homes and carried out extensive advertising to get local residents to use the UCC at night.

Ms Flowers added the it even tried bussing Lister patients with non-emergency ailments to the UCC - but patients refused to be moved.

Outside of the meeting, the CCG also responded, on August 9, to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's motion to prevent the 10pm to 8am closure.

An amended version of this motion, passed by Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors, argued that the NHS being underfunded nationally was behind the CCG proposals.

Ms Flowers dismissed that "financial considerations are not the motivation for our proposal".

She added that there were "no plans to withdraw our proposal" - despite the opposition by WHBC - and said it will await the findings of the engagement process.

Labour's parliamentary candidate Rosie Newbigging also delivered a petition during the Thursday meeting of just over 2,500 signatures - against the proposed night-time closure - to Ms Flowers.

Ms Flowers said the CCG would wait for more signatures and thanked Ms Newbigging for engaging with the process.

You have until Wednesday, September 4, to have your say by downloading a questionnaire and submitting it to the 'qeiiucc.enhertsccg.nhs.uk' website, or by post, to arrive by September 4, at: Opinion Research Services, Freepost SS1018, PO Box 530, Swansea, SA1 1ZL (no stamp required).

The results of the engagement process will be discussed on Thursday, October 24, at the Focolare Centre, 69 Parkway in Welwyn Garden City.

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