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Urgent Care Centres

The report is available here: Discussion paper: Urgent Care Centres - What works best?

Based on work carried out for the Department of Health and others, the Primary Care Foundation has published a discussion paper on urgent care centres in October 2012. We describe how the term Urgent Care Centre is used for some very different services and how the range of cases that can be treated varied over time at some centres. We were looking for services that delivered high-quality, effective and cost-effective care. We set the following criteria for this review:

  • Care should be provided promptly
  • Patient’s needs should be met and the scope of the service should be clear
  • Governance and management responsibility for improving quality and cost-effectiveness should be clear and exercised
  • The environment should be right and promote integration with other services
  • The process should support the features that we were looking for

A number of recommendations are made under the headings of:

  • Clearly defining the expectations of any urgent care services and measuring their impact across a whole health economy
  • Specifying the data required to demonstrate the impact and analysing that intelligently Integrating urgent care services with the wider primary and secondary care system Using “see and treat” processes rather what might be called "triage and wait"
  • Developing a consistent approach to governance that looks at the totality of care provided to patients
  • Collecting feedback consistently and coherently and acting on what it tells you
  • Describing urgent care services accurately, using a term that will be understood by patients

This discussion paper complements our report ‘Breaking the mould without breaking the system: new ideas and resources for clinical commissioners on the journey towards integrated 24/7 urgent care’ published in November 2011 with the NHS Alliance. You may also want to refer to the paper produced for the Department on ‘Primary Care in Emergency Departments’.

Much of our learning comes from unpublished work carried out for the Department of Health in 2010 - but the views are those of the Primary Care Foundation.

We hope that these criteria and the learning from the visits to UCCs will help inform commissioners as they develop local urgent care strategies and begin to commission an integrated, urgent care system that meets the needs of patients.

We are aware that the study looks at a limited number of services and that urgent care centres may have developed further since some of the research for this paper. The Primary Care Foundation looks to highlight examples and promote the spread of good practice. We would welcome the opportunity to provide details of any aspects of good urgent care services if they are drawn to our attention so that we can make them available with this paper through our web site.

About Us

The Primary Care Foundation supports the development of best practice in primary and urgent care. We apply our work shaping national policy to support local change. We use information to create understanding, driving improvements in care, reducing unnecessary variation across organisations and between clinicians and developing practical tools for front-line staff in general practice and urgent care.