FORMER Government health minister Andy Burnham stopped off at the borough's under-threat walk in clinic to voice concerns about plans to axe the busy facility.

Mr Burnham, now Labour’s shadow minister for health, joined Dudley North MP and Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Dudley South Natasha Millward, to speak out against proposals to close the out-of-hours Dudley facility.

Between April 2012 and March 2013 around 50,000 patients used the Holly Hall centre, which is operated by Primecare to take pressure of Russells Hall Hospital's A&E department.

But Dudley's Clinical Commissioning Group is considering scrapping the facility in favour of getting patients to use their own GP practices for non-emergency medical needs.

Labour politicians, however, hope to convince the CCG to reconsider the cost-cutting plan.

Mr Burnham said when he visited the Stourbridge Road centre on November 28: "50,000 or more people a year are using this place; it's obviously valued by the Dudley community.

"You've got to make any changes with real caution. This is diverting pressure from A&E. People are rightly concerned about any loss of service."

He said one in four UK walk-in centres had closed, since the Coalition government came to power, and a guarantee that meant patients must be able to get an appointment with their GP within 48 hours had been abolished.

Dudley North MP Ian Austin added: "People are concerned the service available here won't be replicated. No-one's got any confidence that GP services in Dudley would be available at evenings and weekends. People are very concerned."

Dr Steve Mann, a Stourbridge GP and clinical lead at Dudley CCG, said the CCG recognises "people like the accessibility the walk-in centre provides but most people would rather get that kind of service from their GP".

He added: "Over 30,000 people currently still use A&E as a primary care walk-in service, even though the walk-in-centre is just a seven-minute walk away. "

And he said the walk-in centre would be replaced by a new urgent care centre at Russells Hall which would "make the choice simpler for people and remove the risk of going to the wrong place; and create a dedicated primary care service, alongside A&E, which will take pressure off A&E and allow staff to concentrate on treating genuine emergency cases".

The CCG's consultation on the closure proposal runs until December 24.

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