Two year reprieve for walk in centre
Tuesday 20th November 2018 @ 10:43 by Lauren Entwistle
News

Oldham’s walk in centre has been given a reprieve after health bosses revealed it could stay open for another two years.

Oldham’s walk in centre has been given a stay of execution after health bosses revealed it could remain open for another two years.

The borough’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) had announced plans to close the centre as part of their shake up of urgent care, which will see more people get treatment in the community and away from A&E.

Chief clinical officer Dr John Patterson had previously told scrutiny chiefs that there was ‘no way of sugar coating’ that the walk in centre, based at the Oldham Integrated Care Centre, was going to shut.

But at the latest meeting of the health scrutiny board he confirmed that the facility would remain open until they are confident they have alternative services in place ‘that work’.

He described the walk in centre as a ‘safety blanket’, but added it was the ‘model of today, not the model of tomorrow’.

The centre, off New Radcliffe Street, is currently open 12 hours a day, seven days a week and serves around 250,000 residents.

Dr Patterson told members that there are issues with the walk in model around ‘continuity of care’ and not being able to identify the most vulnerable people and embed them back in general practice.

“Politically across the nation walk in centres are becoming increasingly rare, because of those various issues,” hs said.

But he added that as part of the devolution deal the CCG does have the ability to develop a new scheme without having to shut the original provision.

Dr Patterson said: “We have varying significant health care needs as a population and the walk in centre for us is a little bit of a safety blanket in that people can walk in somewhere else other than A&E.

“For our unregistered population, some of our most vulnerable of the population, although it probably isn’t the best long term treatment and isn’t the answer to them thriving, it is safe and they can access it.

“As a commissioning group in Oldham we are putting together the papers in order to extend the walk-in centre for up to two years.

“The idea being that when we’re confident that we have an alternative offer for the population we would then cease the walk in centre.

“Those alternative offers are progressing.”

He added: “That’s one of the strongest messages that would like the community to hear, that we are committed to the walk in centre until we are all happy that there are alternative services that work.

“Although we don’t envisage it being in place in two years, we have budgeted and found for the possibility that it will be open for the next two years.”

The alternatives that are currently being developed range around the ‘seven-day’ service, and the new urgent care hubs.

Extra money from across Greater Manchester is allowing GPs to provide extra appointments through the week, and these are currently being delivered in Royton and Failsworth.

That service offers 200 appointments a week, which can be accessed for people unable to get a normal appointment by going to the GP reception front desk.

It has also been opened up to the NHS 111 service as a means by which people can be triaged to see a GP by call handlers.

Dr Patterson told members they are exploring whether more funding can be accessed to expand the service over the winter by an extra 500 appointments.

“I don’t think we’ll get to the 700 appointments but we are ambitious to expand as much as we can the current service,” he said.

Urgent care hubs would be based around the borough’s five ‘clusters’ to provide urgent primary care in patients’ local areas.

The hubs would operate a ‘booked in and booked out service’, whereby appointments would be booked through the GP front desk, who would offer an appointment for that day or week.

If someone is identified as having an undiagnosed condition, or a long-term condition that isn’t being managed properly, they would be booked back into their local GP practice for a follow up.

It’s hoped the new plans will provide a solution to the capacity issues on the front-line which are being intensified by rising demand and a diminishing number of GP staff.

Dr Patterson added: “I believe this will be one of the most fundamental steps forward that we do for our local health economy.

“It makes financial sense, but that’s much less than the clinical sense it makes.

“I am outraged that in any part of the UK some of our most vulnerable, elderly population have to be transported all the way to sit in A&E before they have a robust medical assessment of their need.”

The urgent care hubs will initially be paid for from the pot of devolution funding.

Bosses intend to run and develop a pilot in an as yet unspecified location to establish what ‘works best’ while they keep the walk in centre open.

It is also hoped the cluster approach will better meet patients’ needs so that, over time, fewer people will go to A&E with conditions treatable by primary care.