The NHS Long Term Plan builds on work from the Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View, which set out an ambition to roll out new Urgent Treatment Centres (UTCs) which would be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week and be integrated with local urgent care services. UTCs will provide a consistent level of care for patients to be seen in clinically appropriate settings, without the need to attend an accident and emergency (A&E) department. The Long Term Plan states that there are currently 110 UTCs in operation.
Services that will not become UTCs may become a general practitioner (GP) Access Hub or another non-urgent primary and community care service. Where services are closing or changing function the guidelines in planning, assuring and delivering service change, including public consultation, will be followed as necessary.
UTCs will work alongside other parts of the urgent care network and commissioners are bringing services together to be part of locally integrated urgent and emergency care services, working together with the ambulance service, NHS111, local GPs, community pharmacists and other community-based services to provide a locally accessible and convenient alternative to A&E for patients who do not need to attend hospital.
The NHS Long Term Plan ensures that work, supported by £33.9 billion in cash terms (the equivalent of £20.5 billion in real terms) by 2023/24, will continue to reduce pressure on emergency hospital services, by expanding and reforming urgent and emergency care with the goal of ensuring patients get the care they need quickly, whilst relieving the pressure on A&E departments.
Patients are increasingly able to access urgent care outside of hospitals through services such as improved NHS111 access, UTCs and evening and weekend GP appointments.
This year the Government provided £1.6 billion to further support the NHS, allowing it to continue treating even more patients in A&E. In addition, an extra £420 million to redevelop A&Es, improve emergency care and help get patients home quicker was provided in advance of the winter period.