A SHAKE-UP of health services in Oldham, which will see its walk-in centre closed, should not “destablilise” the status quo, town hall bosses have said.

A huge project is underway to change the way people in the borough access medical help, with the aim to make less people attend A&E unnecessarily.

Chiefs want to create a “single point of access” whereby more patients receive health and social care in the local community and through their GP.

Dr Shelley Gumbridge told members of the borough’s health and wellbeing board that the pressures on the A&E are “quite acute”.

She explained their vision was for a system where patients would not have to “self-triage” to decide where to go for their care.

“It was based on patients receiving health and social care in their local community setting and to keep things closer to home,” Dr Gumbridge said.

“For patients to have extended access as well across seven days a week, and to have a single care and support plan with shared medical records between GPs, health professionals and social care.

“The A&E clinicians are then freed up to be able to see those patients who need their specialist skills and are critically ill.

“Ultimately the overall objective is that patients receive the right care, in the right place at the right time, every time.”

Neighbourhood “clusters” across the borough and an urgent care treatment would be created as part of the plan.

Dr John Patterson, chief clinical officer at Oldham CCG, told the board that the amount of unmet need in the borough could seem ‘daunting’.

“What’s quite impressive from this work is that it’s joining stuff together in the way that we thought it was, but it definitely wasn’t,” he said.

“The whole piece of work is to try and build the urgency out of the system.”

Cabinet member for education and culture, Cllr Paul Jacques, said: “On paper it looks really, really good but in terms of practice will we have enough resources of staff to stop people self-triaging themselves?

“At the present moment, people say they can’t get to see their doctor so they end up going to the walk-in centre.”

Responding, Dr Gumbridge said the change from the new system would be ‘really significant’.

“It’s not just depending on GPs it’s depending on all primary care staff who have a vast range of skills and actually looking at which member of staff would be better placed to manage some of that.” she said.

She highlighted practice nurses, clinical pharmacists, paramedic practitioners and advanced nurse practitioners as a way of increasing capacity on the frontline of the NHS.

Cllr Zahir Chauhan, portfolio holder for health and social care, told members that it was “absolutely” the right model, but it needed to be “dynamic”.

He said: “It should be changing based on the outcomes, and how much it is going to cost and what we are getting as a result of it so it’s not another experiment of seven day success.

“What should not happen is the existing structures become destabilised, it should be strengthening existing structures.”

Jill Beaumont, director of children’s social care and early help, expressed concerns that children and families who access front line care weren’t obviously featured in the plan.

“For me there is a distinct lack of information around children and paediatrics,” she said.

But Dr Gumbridge replied that it was a ‘cradle to grave’ strategy.

Committee chair Cllr Jenny Harrison concluded that the success of the new model hinged on getting the information out to residents.

She said: “Because we can do all this work but if the people who it’s for don’t get it or don’t understand it, then what’s it all about?”