Walk-in health facilities are set to move out of both Hastings and Eastbourne town centres next year.
Instead they will be co-located with A&E departments at both Hastings’ Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne’s District General Hospital as part of plans for new urgent treatment centres (UTCs).
The new facilities will combine A&E primary care streaming, GP out of hours base visits, urgent care walk-in and will also offer bookable appointments.
The UTCs would be open 24 hours a day throughout the whole year and are anticipated to be ready by April 2019.
Currently walk-in facilities are provided at Eastbourne Station Health Centre and Hastings’ Station Plaza Health Centre.
Due to concerns about the potential impact the changes will have on groups who are more likely to use the walk-in centres, both clinical commissioning groups have agreed to hold a public consultation later this year.
The proposals were discussed by the East Sussex Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee last Thursday (March 29).
Jessica Britton, chief operating officer for both Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG and Hastings & Rother CCG, argued the new walk-in centres would provide a ‘smoother and better service than they currently have because of the co-location’.
She said: “The only bit that would be different or less preferable for some groups would be location and those are the questions that people want us to talk with them about.”
She continued: “For the majority of people who use the walk-in centre currently they would be quite happy and able to use a walk-in facility somewhere else, but for a smaller but really important cohort of people and often more vulnerable people perhaps those with long-standing mental health issues or homeless people or people just with slightly chaotic lifestyles and things are a bit tricky we know that they can focus more on those town centre services where the walk-in bit currently is.”
Other groups mentioned who might be affected by the changes included carers and children with special educational needs.
An officers report says: “The existing walk-in centres also have a registered patient list and consideration is being given to future general practice provision for these patients.”
The clinical commissioning groups are also required by Government to increase access to primary care appointments outside of core hours and at weekends by October 2018.
In East Sussex this would be done by establishing a number of primary care access hubs across the area, which would include town centre provision in both Eastbourne and Hastings.
Meanwhile the procurement of a new Sussex-wide NHS 111 service and clinical assessment service is currently underway.
This would include a GP out of hours home visiting service.
Mark Angus, urgent care system improvement director for the East Sussex Better Together partnership, said the plans for the UTCs would be delivered within the existing resources.
He described how £1.7m had already been invested at DGH and Conquest to set up the primary care streaming services.
At Conquest this space is expected to be sufficient to accommodate a UTC, but DGH may need extra capital investment.
Mr Angus said they estimate 20 per cent of patients who attend acute hospitals would benefit from primary care delivered services, which would then take the pressure off A&E departments.
According to his report, as part of the national review of NHS urgent treatment services patients said there was a confusing mix of walk-in centres, minor injuries units and urgent care centres, so that many people just choose A&E even if it is less convenient and often with longer waits.
He continued: “In response, the national plan is to standardise as many services as possible so they offer better and consistent opening times every day, and more tests and treatments – and all under the single banner of ‘Urgent Treatment Centre’ which NHS 111 can book patients into.”
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