CAMPAIGNERS are calling for longer opening hours and more services to be reinstated at a local health clinic.
Residents' associations from across the south of the borough want health bosses to reverse recent cuts to the urgent care service attached to Purley War Memorial Hospital in Brighton Road.
Diane Hearne, chair of the Hartley and District Residents' Association, said trips to the urgent care centre in Croydon town centre were difficult for many, adding: "Where else in the south of the borough are people served? The area has an ageing population and we need this resource here."
Opening hours were cut and treatment for minor ailments dropped in May with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) saying the centre was under-used and services sometimes duplicated at a time of severe budget constraints.
Health bosses want minor ailments to be treated more often at pharmacies or at home.
But local residents doubt the data on the use of the centre and say the service was under-publicised, reporting mounting concern since the changes came into force.
Tarsem Flora, chair of the Purley and Woodcote Residents' Association, said: "There is lots and lots of concern about the new opening hours. I hope they will listen to people and they will review."
The centre used to treat minor injuries and ailments and offered access to an X-ray for anyone over two years of age from 8am until 8pm every day of the year.
But in May the daily hours were halved and treatment dropped for the minor ailments – such as conjunctivitis, diarrhoea, headaches and sore throats.
The centre now treats only minor injuries, such as scalds, bruises and cuts, but is available to all ages and is led by GPs rather than nurses. The unit also no longer provides direct access to the hospital's X-ray equipment, which it used to from 9am until 4.30pm Monday to Friday (and 9am to noon at weekends), with health bosses saying the "inconsistency" in the availability caused problems.
Residents' associations plan to write to the CCG urging them restore the opening hours, restore X-ray access, and restore the treatments for minor ailments.
The CCG will review usage after three months and consider adapting the service, with local campaigners urging them to better publicise the service in the meantime.
Dr Fernandes, however, warned that ineffective use of resources could come at the expense of "urgent improvements we need in Croydon, like the fantastic refurbishment of facilities we have seen at Purley Hospital".
He added: "We hope that local people and politicians will support the NHS locally as we face up to the need to use our constrained funding wisely at a time when demand for services is growing.
"In particular, we hope people will support this decision to remove the minor ailments element of the urgent care service at Purley. Surely it is right that people with minor ailments – like coughs, colds and hay-fever – are treated by a pharmacist or treat themselves at home rather than being seen in an expensive urgent care setting?"
As well as the campaign started by residents' associations, local Tory MP candidate Chris Philp has e-mailed 3,000 residents with a link to an online petition and survey.
Charles King, chair of the East Coulsdon Residents' Association and a Labour council candidate this year, welcomed Mr Philp's support but noted: "This is a direct result of the Conservative policy of breaking up the health service."
Similar cuts were made to the unit in New Addington. The CCG says its publicity of the Purley service includes 45,000 leaflets distributed around Croydon, including 10,000 leaflets in the CR8 postcode area.