GPs urged to revamp 'confusing' NHS urgent care

NHS 'urgent care centres' are underused, confusing to the public and poorly linked to other health services, a report has warned.

A&E: patient confusion over distinction between urgent care centres and other services

The report by the Primary Care Foundation looked at 15 urgent care centres (UCCs) in 10 PCT areas and found that the range of services they offered varied widely, causing confusion among the public, patients and even health professionals. Patients and other groups were unclear about how the organisations differed from GP out-of-hours services, walk-in centres and A&E.

In some cases UCCs were co-located with GP out-of-hours services but had no 'operational link between the two separate services'. The report said this was 'strange as often the only difference between the groups of patients treated was how they had chosen to access care'.

Services offered at the centres were inconsistent, the report found. Some opened 24 hours a day but others only 12 to 14 hours a day. Some treated only routine cases that could be managed in primary care, while others had a full range of diagnostic services, and treated injuries including fractures and lacerations.

Clinicians working in the centres said they were underused. The report found that the typical number of cases seen per clinical hour across the 15 UCCs was between 1.5 and 3. ‘Most clinicians with whom we discussed these findings, knowing the case mix that is seen in the centres, felt that this level was low,’ the report said.

In contrast, GP out-of-hours services saw between 1.5 and just over 5 cases per clinician hour, the report said.

Primary Care Foundation director Henry Clay said GP commissioners should review the role of UCCs as a matter of urgency. He said: ‘The public are confused about the range of terms we use and the lack of consistency across services.

'This report demonstrates the importance of fully joined-up commissioning of urgent care rather than commissioning services separately as has sometimes happened in response to centrally driven innovations.

‘There is a need for local commissioners to take a clear strategic view of all their urgent care services and develop an integrated approach that includes primary care.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

X-ray sign

Spike in TB cases prompts public health warning

Cases of TB in England have risen by 7% compared with last year, prompting a warning...

COVID-19 vaccine

GPs demand investigation as winter vaccine 'mismanagement' risks patient safety

GP leaders in England have demanded an investigation into 'mismanagement' of this...

Medical centre sign

GP 'engineering' fears as small practice contracts offered on branch-only basis

GP leaders have raised concerns over the 'engineering' of general practice after...

Close up of BMA official picket armband

SAS doctors in England to hold indicative ballot on strike action

Specialist, associate specialist and specialty (SAS) doctors in England could join...

BMA sign

BMA to oppose expansion of physician associate roles amid safety concerns

Doctors' leaders will oppose government plans to expand use of physician associates...

Doctor strikes

Public strongly back talks and new pay offer to end doctor strikes

The general public believe the government should reopen talks to end doctor strikes...