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
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

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

BMA demands urgent PPE solution after 50 Italian doctors die from COVID-19

BMA demands urgent PPE solution after 50 Italian doctors die from COVID-19

The government must act urgently to protect NHS staff amid a wave of COVID-19 deaths...

Essex GP confirmed as first NHS doctor killed by COVID-19

Essex GP confirmed as first NHS doctor killed by COVID-19

A 76-year-old Essex GP has been confirmed as the first NHS doctor to die after being...

4,000 GP practices asked to join COVID-19 research project

4,000 GP practices asked to join COVID-19 research project

GP practices using EMIS clinical systems have been urged to join a new COVID-19 research...

Coronavirus: Resources to help GPs manage high-risk and vulnerable patients

Coronavirus: Resources to help GPs manage high-risk and vulnerable patients

GPonline highlights information for different groups of patients and those with specific...

Free learning for GPs and nurses returning because of coronavirus

Free learning for GPs and nurses returning because of coronavirus

MIMS Learning has launched a free learning plan for GPs and nurses who are returning...

Almost 4,000 GPs rejoin GMC register as COVID-19 deaths surge

Almost 4,000 GPs rejoin GMC register as COVID-19 deaths surge

Around 3,800 GPs have rejoined the medical register barely a week after the government...