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Hospital Healthcare Europe

Concerns over urgent care centres

9 December, 2008  

Experts have expressed “serious concerns” about NHS Urgent Care Centres, which could be limiting patients’ choices by not allowing them to attend A&E departments.

The College of Emergency Medicine said that some patients could be put at risk because of the limited treatment options available, saying the centres were “ill thought out” and had been imposed for financial reasons.

It also called on the government to urgently address “serious workforce shortages” and said that the number of consultants working in emergency medicine should be more than doubled from 740 to 1,500 by 2012.

In a wide ranging report looking at the future of emergency medicine, the college warned that there was “no evidence of the clinical or financial benefits” of Urgent Care Centres.

Dr John Heyworth, incoming president of the college, said Urgent Care Centres were being introduced on the assumption that most patients who attend A&E do not require emergency care.

He said there was widespread confusion among patients about where to go for emergency care and argued that patients should not be denied the experience of emergency care staff.

Dr Heyworth said there could be risks to patients who attend Urgent Care Centres rather than emergency departments as the clinical judgment calls involved in diagnosing patients were “very difficult”.

Copyright Press Association 2008

College of Emergency Medicine