Monitor to review walk-in centre closures

GPs have been invited to contribute to an investigation into the closure of walk-in centres, led by the health regulator Monitor.

Dr Vautrey: 'The problem that walk-in centres have caused is like putting another lane on the motorway.'
Dr Vautrey: 'The problem that walk-in centres have caused is like putting another lane on the motorway.'

Monitor said that it launched the review today to understand why the closures in England are happening and if they are ‘in the best interest of patients’.

There is no central data for how many centres have closed or how many have moved into A&E departments or other facilities. All 152 PCTs were required to commission at least one walk-in centre in 2008/9. NHS England took over responsibility for the majority of walk-in centre contracts last month, following the abolition of PCTs.

The GPC has said that there is no evidence to suggest that walk-in centre closures have led to an increase in demand for A&E services.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The problem that walk-in centres have caused is like putting another lane on the motorway. They have promoted a culture where patients have been encouraged to access healthcare early in an illness and increased demand without adding great value.

‘The similar resource for GP practices could increase capacity and not increase demand.

‘In those areas where they have closed, I don’t think we have seen any evidence that there has been a material difference to A&E attendances.’

Director of the NHS Confederation's NHS Partners Network, David Worskett, welcomed the review and said that the closures could have resulted in an increase demand on A&E services.

‘This is something we have been calling for since the start of this year,’ he said. ‘We have become increasingly concerned that in some areas, walk-in centres are being closed or are under threat of closure even though they may be providing valuable access to primary care at times of day, or for groups of people, for whom the much more restricted opening times of conventional GP practices are too inflexible. We also believe that in some situations walk-in centres - or the absence of them - may be a factor influencing demand on A&E departments.

‘While walk-in centres are run by public and independent sector providers, the latter play a significant part in this type of service and we look forward to contributing fully to Monitor's review.’

Monitor said that it would like GPs, commissioners and current providers of walk-in centres to contribute to the review, as well as other stakeholders. To contribute email walkincentresreview@monitor.gov.uk.

The consultation closes at 5pm on 28 June 2013.

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