Rick Dillon, press officer for Hastings & Rye Labour Party, posted a triumphant “We Did It!” headline on its website last week claiming that NHS leaders were about to confirm that the walk-in medical centre at Station Plaza is to be retained as an “integrated health hub”. A celebration demo followed, staged last Saturday morning outside the building.

The website posting declared that a review board within East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) had approved recommendations by Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). All that was needed now was “the final backing of NHS England”.

The centre would then stay open seven days a week from 8.00am to 6.30pm, according to Mr Dillon. “In addition, the special needs of patients will be met more fully by bringing on board other care agencies.”

However the CCG have told HIP that these claims are premature. Alex Colbran, their Media and Marketing Manager, pointed out that the HOSC review board isn’t able to approve recommendations by the CCG – that needs to be done by a full HOSC meeting which won’t convene until 26th September. In any event the CCG are yet to finalise their proposals. Their recent consultation “has indicated a need to retain relevant health care services within the town centre, particularly for some of our more vulnerable patients, so a number of options are being explored”. But it was “inaccurate” to suggest that, as a result of a meeting of the review board, HOSC had approved recommendations by the CCG. 

In the meantime, even if a decision to retain the walk-in centre is eventually confirmed,  neutral observers may question whether the political credit claimed by the Labour party is not somewhat synthetic. It is true that Labour stalwart Erica Smith launched a petition with Change.org to challenge the original closure decision, made in March 2018 when the CCG were in “special financial measures” and needing to find £18m savings. But so did Conservative opponent Amber Rudd MP with an i-petition, and it was she who chaired a public meeting last September, with Labour candidate and council leader Peter Chowney in attendance, calling for local residents to “come out and voice their support”.

At that time Mr Chowney commented: “It does seem a little strange that our MP is opposing the closure, when it’s her Conservative government that has forced the CCG to consider this by demanding £18m savings in their budget. While it’s important to fight this closure, the CCG will presumably just have to consider another cut elsewhere, unless the government funds our local healthcare services properly.”

We can no doubt expect more political exchanges of this sort as events at Westminster propel the prospects of an early general election.

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