Councillors were warned to ‘watch out’ for the ballot box at a meeting which saw health bosses approve the closure of two Merseyside community walk-in centres.

Residents were furious after members of Wirral’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) approved major but controversial changes to how urgent care is provided in the borough.

The decision was made at a Joint Strategic Commissioning Board (JSCB) meeting on Tuesday, where elected members could have their say but were not allowed to vote on the final recommendation.

However, this did not stem then ire of the dozens of people who turned out to the meeting towards the council.

They left the building shouting ‘health care should be accessible for all’ and ‘we will be watching.’

What are the changes?

Two walk-in facilities are set to close: Gladstone (formerly known as Parkfield Medical Centre) and the Moreton Minor Injury & Illness Unit.

These will be replaced with access to urgent GP/Nurse appointments in local GP practices as part of the GP extended access scheme.

The CCG are also working with the Primary Care Networks to develop a specific planned/bookable dressing service within the West Wirral/Moreton area to ensure continuity of service for residents.

This is a big change to what was previously proposed, with the CCG at first considering closing five walk-in centres: Eastham Clinic, Victoria Central in Wallasey, Miriam Medical Centre in Birkenhead, Parkfield Medical Centre in New Ferry and Moreton Health Clinic.

The move would have seen services moved to Arrowe Park Hospital in the form of an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC), with more GP appointments and “closer to home” care introduced at other health centres across the borough.

Thousands opposed that plan, citing inadequate public transport links to Arrowe Park as a major concern.

Why are the changes being introduced?

The changes are being carried out because of confusion with Wirral’s current walk-in system and a need to ease pressure on Arrowe park’s A&E department.

The context for the review was the numerous urgent care services with different names, including Walk in Centres (WIC) and Minor Injury/Illness Units (MIU) which had different opening hours and services.

The CCG said that whilst these services were locally valued and recognised by communities, they did not provide consistency in service provision, meaning many patients defaulted to using the Accident and Emergency Department at Arrowe Park Hospital.

Dr Abhi Mantgani, a senior doctor at the Miriam Primary Care Group who provide the Gladstone Service that is set to close, spoke in favour of the CCG proposals yesterday.

He said the scaled back plans would ensure the substantive services are kept open and welcomed the move to replace the closing ones with a 24 hour 7 day a week UTC at Arrowe Park.

Public transport main issue

The UTC at Arrowe Park is currently open for 12 hours, but some argue transport links to the borough’s main hospital are not good enough to allow people to access it throughout the night and on Sundays.

More than 30,000 worried residents signed a petition calling for the move to be scrapped.

Opposing the plans, Labour councillor for Prenton and Birkenhead, Tony Norbury, urged the CCG to ‘do the right thing’ and ‘listen to the people of Wirral’.

Speaking as a member of the public at yesterday’s meeting, he said: "I urge the CCG to think again and reconsider. I’m very concerned that two of our walk in centres are going to be closed down.

“The people of Wirral have signed a petition, 45000 people have spoke to the CCG.

“We have asked you to think again and think about the effects this will have on the people of Birkenhead and Wallasey.

“They are already suffering because of Tory austerity, and because their bus services are being reduced by commercial operators.

“People are already suffering in these very deprived areas. When you take away their health care, this means the people of Wirral have got a lesser service and this cannot happen.

“We cannot take one step backwards from providing the service that people can use on their door step, and this will do that. It will make health care provision worse for those people living in those areas.”

Cllr Norbury received a round of applause for his words from members of the public.

However it did not sway the CCG, who voted unanimously for the changes to go ahead, meaning they will be phased in from April next year.

‘The right decision for Wirral’

Dr Paula Cowan, chair of NHS Wirral CCG said: "We have been clear from the start that there was a need for us to review current urgent care services. Our role in the NHS is to ensure we are providing the best possible healthcare with the resources that we have.

"An Urgent Treatment Centre for Wirral, based on the Arrowe Park Hospital site and available for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week will ensure that we can provide a seamless urgent care service at Arrowe Park Hospital. This will help to reduce pressure on Wirral’s only A & E department.

"In making our decision, we have taken into consideration the feedback from members of the public and as result we will continue to provide walk in facilities in Eastham, Wallasey and Birkenhead.

"These services will be supported by more GP and nurse appointments across Wirral as well as an improved NHS 111 service.

"We would like to thank everyone who took the time to get involved. The feedback from people really did influence our decision. By reviewing all the evidence that has been collected, we believe that we have made the right decision for the future of urgent care services in Wirral."