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Walk-in centres snubbed by commuters

11th December 2009

Researchers say that NHS walk-in centres close to railway stations are a waste of money.

A study from the University of Sheffield has found they are not popular with commuters and cost twice as much as GP surgeries.

Some were seeing just over 30 patients a day.

Six centres were set up near railway stations in London, Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds under a five-year pilot started in 2004 as part of a £50m initiative by the Department of Health as part of an expansion of GP services.

Funded by the NHS but run by private companies, the commuter clinics are open from 7am to 7pm five days a week.

But while they had a capacity for up to 180 patients, the evaluation which was funded by the DH, found they were seeing 33 to 101 patients a day.

It also said some were poorly located.

The average cost of a patient attending the commuter clinics was £33, rising to £62 for some, compared to £13 for NHS walk-in centres.

Study leader Dr Alicia O’Cathain said: “One of the problems was location, so one for example was near the train station but wasn’t on the commuter track and there were very few people who went through that way.

“At the start and end of the day people are in a rush, but the way that people use walk-in centres is to go in their lunchtime.”

The DH said it would now be up to primary care trusts to decide whether to continue providing these services.

 

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