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Urgent care centres 'inconsistent' and 'confusing'

Urgent care centres staffed only by nurses are often restricted in the types of patients they can see depending on the time of day and who is on duty, a report by primary care researchers has found.

The Primary Care Foundation reviewed 15 urgent care centres around England, many of which have been set up with the aim of reducing pressure on accident and emergency departments.

However, the researchers found the term urgent care centre covered such a wide range of services that it caused “confusion” to patients and health professionals alike.

For example, some offered a full range of diagnostics and clinical staff and provided services almost equivalent to an accident and emergency department, while others were similar to walk in centres and could treat only routine cases that could be managed in primary care.

In addition, services were often provided in an “inconsistent” manner, said the foundation’s report Urgent Care Centres: What works best?. Sometimes the same centre could treat patients with different conditions at different times of the day, and some centres were open 24 hours a day but others just 12 to 14.

The report noted that there seemed to be a “particular issue with nurse-only services” which often had a wide range of capability among staff that meant the case mix that could be seen depended on who was on duty.

“At the times when an experienced nurse practitioner is not available, a narrower range of patients can be treated,” it warned.

The report highlighted one area which had addressed this by making sure all emergency nurse practitioners staffing its minor injury units “had a common skill base”.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Hmm are we not lucky to have such a huge choice? What exactly is the complaint here??

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  • i supported the speaker who said what exactly are we mourning about , it is an opportunity to have this group of nurses who can step in and do what doctors will do in most of the cases this is an extended role , we shouild celebrate nurses increased skill

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  • The issue revolves around exactly what an "Urgent Care Centre" is and what service is, or is not, provided.

    Unless the nature of the service is clearly defined patients will be confused and unable
    unable to exercise choice about whether any particular service is appropriate to their need(s).

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • The issue I would say is one step back from patients exercising an informed choice. I would argue the informed choice is determined by health literacy levels and that is , in my experience of working in both an urgent care centre and walk in centre, minimal in the vast majority of patients. Not because patients are not intelligent but for reasons such as unfamiliarity of needs self-assessment by people as health professional are unwilling to empower that in patients, because political will to train, steff and fund appropriate care in centres is lacking, because people in the majority want to be looked after not be dazzled by choices akin to shopping in a sainsbury's superstore......

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