Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recently launched a public consultation on urgent care centres in the city.
Two of the three centres that will be affected by the new proposals are in my constituency, Bunny Hill and Washington.
I am appalled by the revelation of this consultation, especially as I was only alerted to its existence on the same morning, just hours before the general public, and I share the concerns and frustration constituents may feel about it.
Closing down urgent care centres in local communities, who may not have access to transport to travel further afield or the time to do so, is a shameful symptom of this Conservative Government’s austerity measures, who continue to deprive the most vulnerable in society from the services they need.
I am also bitterly disappointed that of the nine forthcoming public discussions, just three of them are outside of typical working hours (after 5pm), with just one starting at 6pm.
I am deeply concerned that this means that some working people will not be able to participate in these discussions, and may be excluded from the consultation.
I am also aware that there is no consultation at the Bunny Hill Centre, so the people these changes will impact the most will be excluded from the consultation process.
The Bunny Hill Centre was once home to one of Labour’s fantastic Sure Start Children’s centres, but this is sadly no longer there as was a casualty of austerity and one of the over 1000 centres that have been closed down since 2010, despite reassurances from David Cameron who said Sure Start was safe in his hands.
Families need support, and to take away that support is to remove a life line they may one day desperately need.
Unfortunately, I do not have any more sway over the consultation than local residents, but I will be meeting with David Gallagher in the coming weeks ahead to discuss my concerns and will be making representations on behalf of my constituents.
In the meantime, constituents should participate in the consultation by either attending the public discussions or completing the online survey, details of which can be found online here: http://www.sunderlandccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/urgent-care-services/public-consultation-get-involved/