Questions were raised at a public meeting about a new walk-in urgent care service which is due to launch in Scarborough on April 1.
The meeting at Scarborough Library on Tuesday night shed some light on how the new service will work alongside Scarborough Hospital’s accident and emergency department.
The service will be provided by Northern Doctors Urgent Care and is for patients who need medical attention which does not require A&E attendance, but they cannot wait for a GP appointment.
Representatives from NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group explained that as of April 1, all walk-in patients will be seen at the new urgent care centre, which will operate in the existing A&E department - with the same reception and waiting area.
Concerns were raised about this - particularly in light of last week’s “major incident” at Scarborough Hospital where beds were full and people faced long waiting times in A&E.
One member of the public said: “Would having the same waiting area as A&E cause friction with some people being seen more quickly than others?
“And what about the Friday night and Saturday night chaos? Who would sort that out?”
Heather Maughan, clinical development manager at Northern Doctors, explained that urgent care patients will be told when they’ll be seen and if they’ve called 111, they will have an appointment and be seen within 30 minutes of it.
She added that staff will be trained and equipped to manage patients who may be under the influence of alcohol and discharge them appropriately.
Concerns were also raised about creating additional pressure on the A&E department, which has been extremely busy in recent weeks.
Dr Omnia Hefni, the commissioning group’s lead for urgent care, said: “The recent problems in A&E were not about people attending in droves. It was because it became blocked - lots of people were needing to be admitted to beds.
“It’s a wider problem and issues need to be looked into such as social care and intermediate care. But the problem is not going to be addressed by the urgent care centre, as it’s only for people who need to be seen quickly, but not in A&E.”
The centre will be open 24/7, 365 days a year and will house four consultation rooms, staffed by GPs and nurse practitioners.
Until April 1, people needing urgent care can still use the Castle Health Centre in York Place, which is offering a walk-in service from 9am to 5pm seven days a week, with 20 same-day appointments each day.
When a patient arrives at the centre, they will be offered the next available appointment. People do not have to be registered with the practice to access them – it is open to all.
Dr Peter Billingsley, lead for urgent care at the CCG, said: “There have been a number of rumours going around that the walk-in service at Castle Health Centre has closed, which is simply not the case. Although the way the service works is slightly different to before, being led by nurses as opposed to GPs, its purpose remains the same which is to provide treatment to patients with illnesses and injuries that cannot wait for an appointment with their own GP.”
From April 1, Castle Health Centre will continue to operate as a GP surgery and is looking to expand its list of 2,700 registered patients. It will be open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm and anyone can register.