Last night I attended a packed meeting in Corby about the possible closure of Corby’s Urgent Care Centre. I did so partly in support of Corby residents, but also because of the huge impact this will have on Kettering and other areas across North Northamptonshire. This is because people from across the area already use the service and if it does close it will put a massive pressure on Kettering General Hospital who are already struggling at meet demand at the moment.

Speakers at the meeting included the Corby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) who decide who runs the service, the current private company Lakeside Plus, Health Watch, the Labour leader of Corby Borough Council and the Conservative MP of Corby.

It was refreshing to hear there was cross-party agreement on the issue and that there was a united view about the importance of the centre and agreement that it needs to remain open.

The centre is currently under threat because the current provider’s contract is coming to an end and they are in a legal dispute with the CCG. They are claiming that they should be paid the national rate for providing the service they do.

The CCG did put out a tender to find someone to take on just a twelve month contract when the current contract ends on 30th September. However they have had nobody offering to take on the service either from the NHS or a private organisation. This has clearly left a big question mark as to what will happen from the 1st October – with closure being a real possibility.

Members of the public queued to give personal testimonies of what the centre had done for them and how, in many cases, lives had been saved simply by it being there. Many other people however raised the whole issue of how the NHS currently operates with competition in the sector and the reliance on Commissioning Groups and private sector companies. Clearly this is a fundamental part of the problem and there are questions about how the NHS is managed that government need to address. However in the meantime action is needed now and if the answer is about funding then that issue needs to be addressed very quickly.

Corby’s MP spoke several times about how funding for the NHS is increasing and in Corby the NHS were getting a 0.8% increase in funding above the national average. This however doesn’t allow for the fact that Corby’s population is growing, and the Council are keen for this to continue because of the local economic benefits it brings their town.

It also doesn’t allow for the fact that Northamptonshire as a whole is growing faster than any other area outside of London, and it certainly doesn’t allow for the fact that locally we have an ageing population. Again this is at a rate much higher than other places. This all leads to extra demand on services and this extra demand needs to be met which it is not being at the moment.

The legal challenge between the CCG and Lakeside Plus is due to be resolved on 4th August and the CCG will meet in public on 8th August to discuss what options they have. At the moment it is hard to know what options there actually might be other than closing the centre regardless of all the knock-on effects that would have for patients and the local community.