Controversial £8m Walsall health centre edging closer
Controversial plans to create a new £8 million health centre serving 23,000 patients at a former leather works are set to move a significant step closer with health chiefs poised to launch a consultation.
Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) want to close four 'outdated' GP practices in the borough and relocate them into a new, bigger, purpose-built site at where Jebez Clift used to stand on Lower Forster Street before it was demolished in 2014.
The practices are Lichfield Street Surgery, Sycamore House Surgery, The Limes Surgery and Saddlers Medical Centre.
There has already been a substantial public backlash with hundreds of people signing a petition opposed to the location which they argue is inaccessible.
Instead they lobbied for it to be based at the Broadway North Centre on Broadway North in a bid to stop that building being sold by Walsall Council.
But now after considering other potential options in the St Matthews, Palfey and Pleck areas affected the CCG has declared the one at Lower Forster Street is the only one that is deliverable.
A six week consultation will be launched within the few weeks seeking the views of patients, staff and other interested parties.
Walsall Council's former health chief Rose Martin said: "It is the most ridiculous site you could imagine for a health centre.
"It is inaccessible, been on a one-way street it means you will have to u-turn to get to it.
"It is one of the highest congested areas in Walsall and it is polluted.
"How people are going to get there I don't know."
While Councillor Peter Washbrook added: "It really is inaccessible they could not have chosen a worse location. It is close to one of the busiest junctions in Walsall.
"This is being done for commercial gain it does not reflect the desire and requirements for the population."
A CCG report outlining the proposed benefits of the new centre states: "A new purpose built health centre will dramatically increase primary care capacity and allow the GPs to deliver greater access and wider range of services to local patients.
"The increase in size will cater for the long term population growth and demographic change in respect of the ageing population in the locality.
"The project provides scope for increased levels of opening times and flexible working.
"There will be scope for increased levels of minor surgical and diagnostic procedures contributing to a reduction in secondary care referrals."
The council's Social Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee are due to hold talks tonight (Tuesday) on the proposal.