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Most urgent primary care services providing good care despite workforce and commissioning pressures

New analysis in ‘The state of care in urgent primary care services’ shows that the majority of walk-in and urgent care centres, NHS 111 and GP out-of-hours services in England are rated good (118) or outstanding (10). However, 16 services (around one in 10) remain rated as requires improvement, with 3 rated inadequate.

Today’s report also highlights that effective urgent primary care benefits not only patients but the wider healthcare system, by easing pressure on other services. This means the value of its impact is greater than the cost of service provision – but this is not always considered in complex commissioning decisions and as a result appropriate resource may not be made available to these types of services.

Other challenges faced by urgent primary care providers include pressures around staffing, compounded by the reality of unsocial working hours and high reliance on self-employed clinicians, and many providers experience difficulties in accessing people’s medical records.

While the majority of care is rated good or outstanding, voluntary sector groups also raised concerns that there is a lack of public information about which services to contact and when, and that people require guidance to overcome an historic reliance on accident and emergency.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice at the Care Quality Commission, said:

“Well-resourced and integrated urgent care not only provides safe, high quality care to people, but can also ease pressure on other areas of the NHS – particularly emergency departments during the winter period and other times of peak demand. These benefits should not be overlooked.

“It is encouraging that the majority of care is rated good or outstanding and important that commissioners and other services recognise the value that urgent care offers as part of integrated care for people in a local area. As CQC’s interim work reviewing local systems has shown, the relationship and interaction between services is vital to better patient experience and outcomes.

“The work already underway by NHS England is an important step in driving better care for people. However, there is more to be done to make sure complex commissioning arrangements and gaps in public information do not undermine care or undervalue these essential services.”

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