By Local Democracy Reporter
THE authority responsible for overseeing healthcare in Thurrock has promised the closure of Orsett Hospital will lead to better care facilities that will be more accessible to residents.
Last week it emerged that Orsett Hospital is expected to close within the next five years under plans to replace it with four new health centres located in Grays, Tilbury, Purfleet and Corringham.
The hospital has already been operating with limited services and Thurrock’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) has promised that all of them will be transferred to the medical centres before the closure.
The CCG has also said the new centres are being designed to consider the growth of the borough, which under the local plan could see as many as 32,000 new homes built over the next ten years.
“The Integrated Medical Centres (IMCs) are being built with growth in mind and will offer more access to key local health, mental health and social care support, closer to where people live,” a spokesman for the CCG said.
“With new, modern facilities in purpose-built buildings we will be able to provide an improved service for all of our patients. Bringing together health, social care, mental health and out of hours hospital facilities under one roof allowing new and innovative ways of delivering services seamlessly.
“No services will be reduced, but they may be delivered in new ways that embrace technology and provide access to diagnostics, such as x-rays and blood tests.
“Each IMC will have a slightly different remit, for instance Corringham could offer primary care, blood tests, community and mental health services for adults and children. Whereas in Thurrock Community Hospital in Grays we are exploring a more enhanced offer including an Urgent Care Centre or something similar.
“The plans are for increased investment in the provision of healthcare for the local area, not cutting services.”
Labour Councillor Victoria Holloway, who chairs the council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “It shouldn’t be an either, or, with Orsett. We should have both.
“The aim of the IMCs is to bring services closer to homes, which is ideal and it gives people the ability to see medical professionals directly rather than going through a GP, so the aims are fantastic and it is important that this happens quickly.
“But overall there has been massive underinvestment in hospitals and in the NHS in the last decade and as a result, the hospitals haven’t been maintained.
“It is a travesty that hospitals are closing at the same time the Government is promising 40 new hospitals – how can you build 40 more when you can’t maintain the ones you already have?
“I have asked NHS representatives about the 40 hospitals and how we could get one here and even they don’t know how they are being delivered or why they are in the places they are planned for.
“Hospitals are being ripped down, land sold, and hospital built elsewhere. It is not fair, and it doesn’t make sense.”
The Conservatives have repeatedly pledged to build 40 new NHS hospitals during their election campaign but it was later revealed that this would be just six.
The remaining 34 would built over the next decade and many would be renovations of existing hospitals.