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Urgent care ‘confusion’ reigns

26 October 2012

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Clinical commissioners have been urged to tackle “confusion” and “inconsistencies” in urgent care services.

A report by the Primary Care Foundation found services offered by urgent care centres are often varied, causing “confusion” among the public and health professionals as to what service is appropriate at any time.

Some urgent care centres are also failing to provide a rapid response with many allowing “significant queues” to build up.

Centres have been urged to replace their “triage and wait” process – in which patients wait once to be prioritised and then wait again for a full consultation – with a “see and treat” model that the Primary Care Foundation claimed is “more effective”.

Clinical commissioners have also been called upon to develop a core set of services, minimum standards and consistent technology “so that patients can recognise where to go and have greater confidence about the range and level of service they can expect”.

It is claimed the report highlights the need for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to look at the whole urgent care system – not just its constituent parts.  

“This report demonstrates the importance of fully joined up commissioning of urgent care rather than commissioning services separately as has sometimes happened in response to centrally driven innovations,” said Henry Clay, director of the Primary Care Foundation.

“There is a need for local commissioners to take a clear strategic view of all their urgent care services and develop an integrated approach that includes primary care.”

Furthermore, the research showed none of the urgent care centres were able to demonstrate any savings had been delivered in seeking to reduce A&E attendances.