Questions raised over access to 'walk-in' medical centres, including Market Harborough's, as people told to go away and get an appointment
The mum of a poorly five-year-old was told to go to two urgent care centres that turned out to be closed before being told to go home and wait for a GP appointment the next day.
The child is one of a number of patients that claim to have turned up at walk-in centres under the control of East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group (ELRCCG) only to be told that they need to call 111, make an appointment and return later.
In the end, the mother took the child to the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby for advice and treatment.
Kathy Reynolds is a member of the patient panel, a group set up to represent the needs of patients in the area.
She said: “If that child had been sent home on the advice of 111 and something serious happened overnight – who is responsible? It seems outrageous to me that this is happening.
“We have had numerous reports of people being turned away from centres that are advertised on the CCG’s own website as walk-in centres.
“There is a lot of confusion around how people should be accessing the help they need.”
Patients have reported being turned away from walk-in centres at St Lukes in Market Harborough, as well as centres in Oadby, Oakham, Lutterworth and Enderby.
A new contract between ELRCCG and DHU Health Care started on April 1.
The problems reported to the Patient Panel have all been since that date, with a number of the issues occurring over the Easter weekend.
People needing to see a GP out of hours or patients with minor injuries say on arriving at the urgent care centres they have been sent away and told to call 111 to make an appointment.
A map on the CCG’s website shows the opening hours for each centre and states that all centres can be accessed by an appointment made via the GP, calling 111 or by walk-in.
Kathy added: “We need some clarity on this issue.
“If places are not operating as a walk-in centre they need to send a very clear message to patients that that is the case.
“If it is not operating as a walk-in centre 100 per cent of the time than it can’t be called that.
“Effective urgent care centres are really important. Effective messaging is really important, it has to be clear hat is offered, when and where.”
The panel also raised concerns that people will stop using urgent care centres and go straight to A&E or stay away entirely.
Kathy added: “If people are being turned away and told to make appointments that message will spread around communities and could mean people not getting the help they need when they need it, or going to A&E instead.
“Patients know that they will always be seen at A&E with or without an appointment and without calling 111 before.”
Harborough District councillor Phil Knowles has also been contacted by residents who have been turned away from St Luke’s in Market Harborough. He said patients included a child who had experienced a ‘blow to the head’, people with cuts that needed tending and others with multiple issues.
He said: “I’m told that people who have arrived at the facility have been told to make an appointment, and return later, go elsewhere, go to A&E or ring 111. This was not what this service was set up to do, it was set up to serve the community.
“If the service is changed then we need to know, is the change being driven by finance and importantly who is making the medical decisions when people arrive at the reception? I have already asked the NHS for answers.”
East Leicestershire and Rutland CCG were asked for clarification and comment relating to reports of people being turned away.
A spokesperson said that it had responded on its social media channels where information about opening hours and appointments is also available.
She added: “Urgent care centre staff are in place and can offer a mix of walk-in appointments and pre-booked appointments (those booked direct via GP surgeries or NHS111).
“It is expected that every patient will leave with an outcome dependent upon their need – either be seen, offered an appointment for a later day/time, or referred onward.
“If a patient walks into a centre, with a health need that requires managing, without a pre-booked appointment, they will either be seen at that time or alternatively be offered a slot (this may not be straight away, but later that day or the following day).”