I recently met with the Chair of Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning group, Dr Wirin Bhatiani, to present my 1550 name petition calling for the walk-in centre to be re-opened.
We had an extensive discussion about the problems that we are seeing in our NHS. He claimed that a year long discussion was held with local residents before the closure of the centre, and that having too many ways to access NHS services was confusing for people. This does not reflect what people have been saying to me, but unfortunately Dr Bhatiani declined my offers to join me in the town centre and discuss this openly with the public.
He also said people who used the walk-in centre would not increase demand on A&E, even though I have heard from hundreds of people who have told me they now have no option but to go to A&E because they can’t get a GP appointment and there is no walk-in centre.
While we disagreed on these points we did both agree that Bolton’s NHS services have been seriously underfunded by the Government, making life difficult for NHS staff and patients alike.
I am sure this lack of resources played a role in the decision to close our walk-in centre. I don’t blame local health bosses for prioritising one service over another. It is, however, disgraceful that this Government have put them in a position where they must decide what they can close with the least impact rather than provide all the services that our town needs and deserves.
It is my hope that we will soon have a more progressive Secretary of State for Health who is more open to supporting our local services. However, you can be assured that I will continue to campaign for our walk-in centre as long as I am the Member of Parliament for Bolton North East.