The NHS chief doctor is expected to say that walk-in centres are crucial to the overall health of the system, although nearly a quarter have closed since 2010. ITV News Science and Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:
Walk-in NHS health centres are not a "one-size-fits-all solution" to healthcare and are only "party of the answer" for delivering a comprehensive public service, health minister Lord Howe has said.
The Conservative peer did not outright dismiss concerns over the number of walk-in centres which had closed, but said the Government was working with healthcare regulators to deliver services "tailored to the local needs of patients".
– Health Minister Lord Howe
Patients should be able to access good-quality out-of-hours NHS services without having to go to an A&E.
Walk-in centres may be part of the answer but this isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.
Family GPs, community services and pharmacists all have a part to play and it's good that Monitor is looking at how walk-in centres fit in.
We're working with NHS England to ensure services are tailored to the local needs of patients and we've agreed a £3.8 billion integration fund to help join up health and care services.
A number of walk-in NHS health centres have been a victim of their own success and are closing because of their popularity with patients, according to a report published by health regulator Monitor:
- Local health bosses sometimes believed the centres were generating "unwarranted" demand with many "worried well" attending.
- In some cases the centres proved "too popular", officials said.
- Some health commissioners were concerned they were paying twice for a health service, with patients at walk-ins able to get the same help from their local GP.
The closure of walk-in NHS centres which treat minor illnesses and injuries without an appointment, have exposed gaps in vital care relied on by the elderly and vulnerable, a health regulator has said.
Monitor's executive director of co-operation and competition, Catherine Davies, explained:
– Monitor's executive director of co-operation and competition, Catherine Davies
There is an issue of access to primary care service - people are saying they find it difficult to get an appointment with a GP when they want to get it.
Walk-in centres therefore provide an alternative to those people who do have difficulty getting an appointment with their GP.
The other issue that came through is that walk-in centres provide for vulnerable groups of people who are less likely to register with a GP.
If a commissioner is thinking about closing a walk-in centre, we're suggesting that they really need to think through how the health needs of these groups of people will be met.
Popular NHS walk-in centres have faced a rash of closure over the last three years, with almost one in four shutting their doors and "increasing health inequalities", a health regulator has warned.
Despite the success of the centres with patients, 53 of the 238 walk-in facilities in England have closed, according to regulator Monitor's review of the service.
Monitor said the centres had been embraced by young adults, women and the poor.