Councillors clash over plans to close Portsmouth walk-in health centre

Guildhall Walk Healthcare Centre
Guildhall Walk Healthcare Centre

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FRUSTRATIONS were raised as councillors refused to condemn plans to close a vital health centre.

Options are being explored to send services at Guildhall Walk Healthcare Centre in Portsmouth elsewhere.

I would have thought people who elected us, would think we would take a view over a vital health service in Portsmouth.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader

A walk-in service could go to St Mary’s Treatment Centre and its GP surgery – which has 6,000 patients – could move into the Somerstown Central Community Hub or shut entirely.

Other options are also being explored – but some fear the closure of the centre is a ‘done deal’.

Ukip councillor Alicia Denny urged members at Portsmouth full council to lobby people to get involved in an ongoing consultation over the proposed changes.

Lib Dem councillors didn’t think that went far enough and demanded the council commit to opposing the centre’s closure.

But Tory leader Donna Jones and Cllr John Ferrett, chairman of the council’s health, overview and scrutiny panel, warned it would ‘pre-empt’ the final outcome.

Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The CCG has gone out to consultation, yet people are saying here we shouldn’t be taking a view, and I find that strange.

‘I would have thought people who elected us would think we would take a view over a vital health service in Portsmouth. It’s an issue that affects people across the city.’

Labour councillor Yahiya Chowdhury, who represents residents in the area where the centre is based, said: ‘I am concerned because some of the most vulnerable in our city, like drug users, will see their vital service and provision taken away. The Guildhall Walk centre has been a success and is an example of how an NHS service in the 21st century should be provided.

Cllr Denny said: ‘This is absolutely a centre of excellence which was built for the benefit of residents.’

Cllr Lynne Stagg suggested the University of Portsmouth put cash forward to keep the centre going.

Cllr Ferrett said: ‘In terms of the amendment put forward, I feel that pre-empts the consultation.

‘I feel as chairman of the Hosp panel I have a job to do in terms of considering all the evidence and the views of the public.’

But he praised the facilities at St Mary’s and welcomed any move to re-home GPs at the Somerstown hub as he said it was ‘under-utilised’.