NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for planning and buying most healthcare services in the borough, has agreed its plans for the future of urgent care services in the borough.
Urgent care services provide medical care for minor injuries and minor ailments and are separate from A&E services which provide emergency care for people with life-threatening conditions.
Following a consultation exercise in 2016 about the CCG’s plans for a single, integrated urgent care service, it has run an engagement process in recent weeks to listen to people’s views about some amendments to its proposals.
These included having walk-in access to the Urgent Treatment Centre from 8am to 10pm and a GP Out of Hours Service operating during evenings, nights and weekends.
After listening to the feedback from a month-long engagement exercise at a meeting this morning, the CCG’s Governing Body agreed to the proposals, with some changes based on patient feedback.
In response to patients’ comments, patients will be able to use the Urgent Treatment Centre on a walk-in basis from 8am to midnight, in line with the current opening hours at Rake Lane walk-in centre. People will also be able to use the centre during the night by appointments booked via NHS 111. A home visiting service will also remain in place as planned.
The engagement also focused on the continued suspension of overnight walk-in access to the urgent care centre at North Tyneside General Hospital (Rake Lane), where overnight opening was suspended in December 2016 due to very low demand.
As previously agreed, existing services run by three separate providers will be replaced with a single integrated urgent care service. This will consist of an Urgent Treatment Centre offering walk-in access during the day, alongside a GP Out of Hours Service operating during evenings, nights and weekends.
These changes will take place in 1 October 2018.
Dr John Matthews, a local GP and Chair of North Tyneside CCG, said: “The need for change has not gone away, but we will always listen and learn from local people’s views where we can. As a result of the engagement exercise, we have opened up the option of night-time appointments at the Urgent Treatment Centre, as well as extending the hours for walk-in access.
“We were always clear that North Tyneside would continue to have 24/7 urgent care services, through the Urgent Treatment Centre, supported by the GP out-of-hours service.
“People also told us they are confused about which services to use, or were not aware that they can get GP advice by calling NHS 111. These are things we can use to improve our marketing and reassure people that services will always be provided to meet their needs.
“We are determined to spend our local NHS’s money on the best possible mix of services. This means patients needing urgent care at night can get clinical advice easily by calling NHS 111, with the option of a home visit or an appointment at the Urgent Treatment Centre if that is appropriate.
“That means better use of NHS resources, and a range of options for patients. If necessary, the Accident & Emergency departments at the RVI and Cramlington hospitals are further options at night time.
“Rake Lane walk-in centre was used by around three patients per night, with around two-thirds of these needing little or no treatment. The new Urgent Treatment Centre can offer night-time appointments, but offering full walk-in access at night time would mean moving staff away from A&E, which would not be a good use of highly trained medical staff. This revised arrangement can offer patients greater reassurance as well as being more efficient.”
Organisations bidding to provide the service will be asked to identify a suitable site. This may be an existing walk-in centre, or another location within North Tyneside.
The current urgent care services at Battle Hill Health Centre and Rake Lane will continue to operate until they are replaced by the new service in October 2018.