The future of Scarborough’s walk-in health centre has been left in doubt after plans were announced for the biggest shake-up of urgent care in decades.
Last year 23,000 people used the walk-in service at Castle Health Centre in York Place. But plans are being put in place to change the way people access urgent care services across the whole of Scarborough and Ryedale, with a public consultation due to begin on January 6.
The news has been met by concern from local GP Dr David Ames, director of the Castle Health Centre.
He explained: “We’ve been told that from October 2014 our contract will not be renewed for the walk-in service, but that we are likely to be able to continue with our registered patient list.
“My concern is that this could be the first step to reducing Scarborough A&E to not having a consultant-led serivce in the evening.
“There is a real concern that the out-of-hours service could be in charge of A&E if no consultant is available.”
Dr Ames, who has been a GP for 25 years, said that the number of walk-in patients seen at Castle Health centre last year - 23,000 - was more or less the same number of people who attended A&E.
The centre also has nearly 2,400 registered patients and in summer, the proportion of non-local walk-in patients goes up to 50 per cent.
Dr Ames said: “We’re really proud of what we’ve created here. It’s been a fantastic asset for the people of Scarborough.
“We’ve had some wonderful feedback, so now I’m left feeling frustrated for the people who use it.
“Why for goodness sake do we want to kill off a success story? A&E is not working as it should, but that’s not their fault.
“Primary care is under such strain, so what is happeneing here makes no sense to me.”
The review and redesign in urgent care services is being led by the NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), with this particular project being led by Dr Omnia Hefni, a GP at Falsgrave Surgery.
The review encompasses four existing serivces that treat people needed “urgent care”, which is classed as care for a sudden illness or injury that needs treating fast, but is not considered to be a 999 emergency. These are:
· Castle Health Centre walk-in service
· The minor injuries service at Malton Hospital
· The GP out-of-hours service
· Non-emergency presentations at A&E, both at York and Scarborough Hospital.
Health bosses state that changes need to be made to improve patient experience and ease pressure on busy accident and emergency departments.
The commissioning group’s draft proposal would see the development of a “one stop shop” for urgent care needs, with facilities in both Scarborough and Ryedale.
Dr Hefni explained: “We know there are issues with patients knowing what services exist for urgent care needs which can lead to inappropriate use of emergency services.
“This not only leads to increased pressure on ambulance services and A&E departments, but can also result in poor experiences for patients such as having to wait a long time to see a doctor.
“Also, two of the main contracts for existing urgent care services, which provide the GP out-of-hours service and the walk-in service at Castle Health Centre in Scarborough, are due to expire in 2014.
“This means we have an ideal opportunity to look at what patients value about the current services and identify whether there are any areas for improvement.
“This will help us develop a specification for urgent care services that meets the needs of local people.”
Dr Hefni said that factors such as the location of services and how they will be staffed are as yet unknown, as the service will not be fully designed until after the public consultation.
However, she stressed that commissioners are well aware of how important a walk-in service is to patients.
Dr Hefni said: “We definitely want to maintain a walk-in service - this is what the model would cater for.
“Patients that access it at the moment are happy using it in the town centre and as far as the service goes, and what it provides, that won’t change.
“What might change, however, is the location.”
Dr Hefni is now encouraging people to take an active part in the public consultation, which starts on January 6 and lasts for 12 weeks.
There will be a number of public drop-in events and questionnaires will be available, with futher details nearer the time.
The feedback gained during this process will then be used to help design and procure the new service, which is due to launch in April 2015.
Dr Peter Billingsley, who is also involved in the leading the consultation, added: “We know how passionate people are about their local NHS so we want to give them as many opportunities as possible to get involved.
“As our plans are very much in the initial stages, they have a real opportunity to shape the service we hope to launch in 2015.
“In the run-up to launching our consultation in January we will also be working closely with local clinicians and representatives from various organisations and support groups to get their views too.”
More information about the consultation will be made available in due course at www.scarboroughryedaleccg.nhs.uk