Report urges wider primary care role for walk-in centres

The NHS should abandon its one-size-fits-all approach to primary care, and give a bigger role to walk-in centres and NHS Direct, a report has said.

The report, Access All Areas: Making Better Use of Primary Care Services, argues that walk-in centres 'increase access (and) reduce health inequalities'.

NHS Direct 'should be recognised as delivering a valuable service to patients' and its expertise should be used to develop services such as NHS Choices.

The document was published by the Expert Group on Access to Primary Care, led by National Obesity Forum chairman Dr David Haslam. The group is independent, but is backed by a healthcare IT firm.

Dr Haslam said that although access to primary care had 'long been on the NHS agenda, progress has been slow in transforming ideas into services and policies'. 'Where services such as NHS Direct and walk-in centres have been introduced, their potential has not been fully realised,' he added.

The report also recommends integrating health and social care commissioning and creating a single telephone number for all urgent care calls.

Meanwhile, it wants Payment by Results reformed to 'incentivise care in the most appropriate location for patients'.

But, Dr Haslam said, where possible, PCTs should make 'existing services fit for purpose rather than going back to the drawing board'. 'All the pieces of the primary care jigsaw are there. We just need to fit them together.'

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