An urgent care facility at North Tyneside General Hospital is unlikely to reopen at night.
The urgent care centre at the hospital in Rake Lane, North Shields, has been closed overnight from 10pm to 8am since December last year due to a lack of numbers.
Now new proposals are being drawn up which will leave the centre permanently closed between 10pm and 8am.
North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has begun an engagement exercise to hear people’s views on the continued suspension of overnight opening at the hospital – which will not affect the A&E services.
They are also looking to create a new integrated urgent care service consisting of an Urgent Treatment Centre, open from 8am to 10pm, and a Home Visiting Service operating during the out of hours period – to come into effect from October 1, 2018.
Officials made the decision to suspend overnight opening of the urgent care service as it was only used by an average of three or four patients per night, believing clinical staff were better deployed at the Northumbria Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH).
Earlier this year, the CCG started the process of selecting a provider to operate a new urgent care service for whole of North Tyneside.
But after no provider capable of delivering the service was found, new proposals have been included which include the permanent closure of the urgent care centre overnight.
Dr John Matthews, a local GP and Chair of North Tyneside CCG, said: “The need for change has not gone away.
“The current system is inefficient, unaffordable and confusing, and many patients have told us they would prefer a simpler ‘one stop shop’ service.
“We continue to believe that a single urgent care centre is the way forward, but some elements of our thinking have changed, so we want to hear local people’s views before making any changes.”
“We are introducing an extra 1,000 extra appointments every week at local GP practices, which will help reduce the pressure on other NHS services. National guidelines for urgent care centres has also changed.
“Night-time opening at Rake Lane walk-in centre has been suspended for nine months, and we have seen no adverse effect on patient care as a result. We therefore propose to commission a new urgent care service from October 1, 2018.”
The new service would consist of an urgent treatment centre offering GP-led care for minor injuries and minor illnesses between 8am and 10pm, seven days a week.
In addition, an out of hours GP home visiting service will provide home-based clinical care between 6.30pm and 8am on weekdays and 24/7 at weekends.
Dr Matthews added: “We are determined to spend our local NHS’s money on the best possible mix of services for patients.
“The small number of patients needing urgent care at night can get clinical advice easily by calling NHS 111, who can arrange a home visit from a GP if that is appropriate.
“That means better use of NHS resources, and less time travelling after most buses have stopped for the night. If necessary, the Accident & Emergency departments at the RVI and Cramlington hospitals are further options at night time.
“The reality is that you could count the patients using the Rake Lane walk-in service at night on the fingers of one hand.
“This will be more convenient for patients, and it means we can focus our staffing on the busiest times of day rather than spending large amounts of money keeping an empty building open all night.
“The new service will see around 150 patients a day – it makes no sense to spend a chunk of the budget on three or four patients a night.”
Organisations bidding to provide the service will be asked to identify a suitable site – such as an existing walk-in centre, or another location in North Tyneside.
The current urgent care services at Battle Hill Health Centre and Rake Lane will continue to operate until they are replaced by the new service in October 2018.
The listening period runs from October 23 to November 17, with a survey, focus groups, public events and online advertising helping people to share their views.
The CCG will then analyse the results before making a final decision in early December about the new service provision from October 2018.
• To complete the survey visit www.northtynesideccg.nhs.uk or call 0191 217 2803 if you need a paper copy.
• Two public events take place on Thursday 2 November, at the Linskill Centre (1pm) and the Langdale Centre (6pm) – to book your place, call 0191 217 2803 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.