Information on the various urgent and emergency care services that operate in England is available on the NHS Choices website to help patients and the public make good choices about what type of facility may best suit their needs. This is supported by a “Find Urgent Care services” portal which allows users to enter a postcode and obtain directions to their nearest facility.
More broadly, NHS England is currently conducting a review into urgent and emergency care services in England. The Urgent and Emergency Care Review aims to reduce pressure on accident and emergency (A&E) by delivering a system that enables more patients to be treated outside of hospital.
The end of first stage Report on the Review, published in November 2013, recognised the need to deliver highly responsive urgent care services outside of hospital so people no longer choose to queue in A&E. The Review further recognised that there are a range of urgent care services currently open including ‘walk-in centres’, ‘minor injury units’, ‘urgent care centres’ and other similarly named facilities that all offer slightly different services, at slightly different times, in different places.
In response to this, the Review proposed to support the co-location of community-based urgent care services in coordinated urgent care centres. These will be locally specified to meet local need, but should consistently use the “urgent care centre” name, to replace the multitude of terms that are available at present. Urgent care centres may provide access to walk-in minor illness and minor injury services, and will be part of the wider community primary care service including out-of-hours general practitioner services.
Since November last year, the Review team at NHS England has been working collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders from across the system to work out the practicalities for delivering this change, to ensure that all urgent care centres are able to provide access to a broad range of physical and mental illness and injury care, for both adults and children. Final decisions on how urgent care centres might be organised will rest with local health economies, but a more consistent offer from such facilities will be advantageous in promoting them as an alternative to hospital based urgent care.
NHS England will update on progress with the Review later this year.