Words by Erdington Local editorial team / Pics by Ed King
Kingstanding residents have been urged to show how much they value the Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre after the NHS admitted it could soon close for good.
Situated on Waren Farm Road, by the colloquially known Concker Island, the NHS operated centre is open 365 days a year and has taken the strain off local hospitals for decades, but a recent inspection deemed the building “substandard”.
Kingstanding and Oscott Councillors have been informed the Urgent Care Centre, which stopped accepting walk-in patients about three years ago – according to staff – could close in a matter of weeks. However, staff at the facility were unable to confirm if the closure was imminent.
Oscott Councillor Barbara Dring (Labour) told: “We need Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre to stay open. The service is so important to this side of the city. Everyone who uses it needs to tell the NHS how important and beloved the centre is. We cannot lose another wonderful facility and only say how great it is after it is gone.”
She added: “Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre also plays a pivotal role helping the vulnerable and disabled in the community who it appears are not always considered in decision making. It has long been a community lifeline for so many.”
A spokesperson for NHS Birmingham and Solihull said: “No decision has been made at this point. However, Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre in Kingstanding is currently housed in a building which is of a sub-standard quality, with significant patient safety concerns arising as a result.
“It’s important to us that our patients receive the best possible care in the most appropriate and safest facilities, which is why we are working through options for the future of the service.
“Over the coming weeks, we’ll be talking to patients and staff about any proposals in order to ensure the service can adapt to meet the needs of its local population and teams.”
The possible closure of the Urgent Care Centre Centre comes amid widespread concerns about local GP surgeries being overloaded and appointments with doctors becoming harder to obtain.
Elsewhere, the locally loved walk in centre on Erdington High Street closed its doors during the coronavirus lockdowns – eventually renaming the service as the Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre and moving to the Stockland Green Primary Care Centre in October 2020.
The High Street facility did reopen as the Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub in December 2010, offering a range of free to access support through both drop in and pre-booked sessions with trained advisors – run by Witton Lodge Community Association.
From 2000 to 2010, under the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown respectively, the NHS opened more than 230 walk-in centres across England.
But the facilities have been steadily shutting their doors, with the health regulator Monitor finding over 50 have closed since 2010 – with further research by the not-for-profit political-activism organisation 38 Degrees finding a further 44 are no longer seeing patients.
Originally planned to improve patient access to primary care, the NHS walk-in centres have ‘stirred debate’ within the healthcare sector over their cost effectiveness sand use of resources – according to Monitor.
However, the facilities have proved generally popular with local residents and users, offering an alternative to often overburdened GP surgeries.
One local patient, David Smith, complained: “I have given up trying with my doctors, they say phone up at 8am and the line is always engaged.”
For more on Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre visit www.warrenfarmurgentcarecentre.nhs.uk