NHS leaders are hoping to set the record straight over the future of urgent care services in North Tyneside.
The move follows rumours surrounding the service aired during a four-week exercise to give people the chance to give their views on urgent care.
Dr John Matthews, a local GP and chairman of NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It’s been a great help to us that so many people have shared their views and ideas about urgent care over the past few weeks.
“While this feedback is important to us, many patients will be worried by misleading rumours and comments they are hearing, and I want to set the record straight today.
“Urgent care services will continue to be available 24/7 for patients in North Tyneside, both now and after the new urgent treatment centre opens next October.
“If you need urgent care, day or night, it will be there for you. After October, the new urgent treatment centre will offer appointments day and night, as well as the option to just walk in during the day.
“Only a handful of people access urgent care at night, for minor injuries or illnesses, but we are absolutely clear that their needs will still be met. This could be through a home visit or contact at a local centre, depending on an assessment of the person’s needs.”
Urgent care services provide care for minor injuries and minor ailments.
They are separate from A&E, which provides emergency care for people with life-threatening conditions.
People have told the CCG that urgent care is confusing and they want something simpler. At present there are two urgent care centres in North Tyneside at Battle Hill and Rake Lane Hospital, as well as an out-of-hours visiting service. The CCG’s proposal is to integrate all the urgent care to one place. The proposed new urgent care centre will be open from 8am to midnight every day of the week, with night-time appointments available by calling NHS 111. From 6.30pm to 8am, and 24/7 at weekends, there will be a GP out-of-hours service, which will offer advice and help, including home visits.
Dr Matthews’ comments follow a four-week engagement exercise in which the CCG presented its plans to local people and listened to views from more than 600 participants. This followed an earlier three-month consultation process.
The CCG reviewed the findings and agreed plans for the future – including changes based on patients’ feedback. These included extending walk-in hours from the proposed 10pm to midnight, in line with current services.
He said: “People in North Tyneside will continue to have their urgent care needs met, to the same high standard of care as patients in neighbouring areas. Services may be arranged in different way to reflect the differences – for example between urban and rural areas - but patients will receive a high quality, timely service when they need it.
“We will now invite providers to put themselves forward to run the service. This is standard practice in the NHS, and we will follow these processes in the normal way. No decisions have been made about which provider will run the new service.
“A lot of the patients we’ve been talking to have heard completely unfounded rumours about the future of Rake Lane hospital itself. As a CCG we invest millions in Rake Lane every year, and we fully expect it to provide a wide range of healthcare services for the people of North Tyneside in the future.”
The current urgent care services at Battle Hill Health Centre and Rake Lane will continue to operate on their current basis until they are replaced by the new service in October 2018.