By Owen Sheppard, Local Government Reporter
Nurses, residents and councillors united to send a message to NHS bosses that the Soho walk-in centre must not close.
Hundreds of central London residents and city workers have signed a petition and written emotive messages about the centre in Soho Square, which could close at the end of March.
Serving 50,000 patients a year, it is based in the Grade II-listed former Hospital for Women – the world’s first gynaecological hospital when it opened in the 1850s.
Tim Lord, chairman of the Soho Society and a retired lawyer, said: “Everyone sensible can see it shouldn’t close. It would be ridiculous.
“I used it the other week. I’d had a skiing accident and they changed my dressing. I was only in there for 30 minutes. The alternative would be waiting for a GP appointment or waiting for three hours in A&E.”
More than 300 people responded to the Soho Society’s online petition.
One submission reads: “I used this service when I first suspected I had cancer. To have someone qualified and reassuring to talk to is absolutely vital and the lower barriers are to accessing healthcare, the better.”
Another supporter said: “I am very grateful to one of the nurses who diagnosed a serious medical condition, missed by my GP, and sent me to hospital for immediate and urgent tests. I have recommended the service to many colleagues and friends over the years.”
The fear of its closure came after NHS England issued national guidelines saying all walk-in centres – typically run by nurses and without needing an appointment – must change or face closure.
Under the news rules, walk-in centres will have to become urgent treatment centres, which are GP-led and do require appointments.
Mr Lord added: “It’s extremely busy. There’s a vast number of workers who use it, and we support that because we want to support Soho’s value to city workers.
“If it closes, more people will go to the A&E at University College Hospital. Or they would have to see their GP where they live, rather than come here during lunch or during their commute.”
The Soho Society has submitted an application to Westminster council to get the historical building listed as an Asset of Community Value. If granted, this would give it protection from being used for another purpose.
The society’s campaign has earned support from Labour and Conservative councillors, as well as newly elected MP and former council leader, Nickie Aiken.
Labour councillor Pancho Lewis wrote an open letter to the CCG saying the closure would be “unacceptable” and “devastating” to Soho.
The building is paid for by the Central London CCG and run by Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust.
A CCG spokesman said: “We are looking at the future of the walk-in service, but it’s very early days and no decisions have been made.
“We are currently holding a series of engagement events so we can understand local residents and other stakeholders’ views.”
Pictured are supporters of the Soho walk-in centre.
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