Published on November 25, 2013 | by Ellen Thomas

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Students affected by closure of NHS walk-in centres

Hurley Clinic in Kennington, one of the walk-in centres in London

Walk-in centre in Kennington [Rosa Hardaker]

Students have expressed concern about the closure of nearly one-quarter of NHS walk-in centres across the country.

The centres were opened to relieve pressure on hospital casualty departments but since 2010, 53 centres have been shut down, according to Monitor, England’s sector regulator for health services.

Some were a victim of their own success – triggering a high level of demand for treatment for often minor conditions. Others were closed because the funding authorities said they couldn’t continue to afford the convenience of the walk-in centres.

But the closures are likely to mean that the number of people attending A&E for minor illnesses is expected to increase.

Vulnerable

Monitor’s research shows that the 185 walk-in centres still operating in England are particularly popular among young adults, many women, and vulnerable social groups.

Monitor has said the closures risk “increasing health inequalities”.

Most closures have occurred in low-income areas and have seen closures in London boroughs such as Southwark, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets.

Elisabette Mancuso, a teaching assistant at LCF, said: “It’s disappointing to hear that many are being closed, it doesn’t really make sense. I’ve always used walk-in centres over here, they’re brilliant and helpful. I always recommend my students to use them, as you can’t fault the service.”

Essential

Kim Woods, a third-year student at LCF agreed: “Now if I need medical help, I worry I’ll have to go to the hospital, which really wouldn’t be necessary. In turn, it could cause even more stress on the NHS.”

A representative for the East of England ambulance service, who regularly works in London spoke to ALN and said: “Most students are not registered to a local general practitioner in the area that they live in, which means that the role of a walk–in centre is essential for students.

“Sometimes even if they are registered with a doctor, it can take up to two weeks to get an appointment due to overcrowding, so it is important to have a service that is so readily available.”

Monitor believes one of the reasons for these closures is “a concern amongst commissioners that people are coming in for very minor conditions. But there is a wide variety of reasons that people come in for.”

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “Walk-in centres are clearly part of the urgent care system. But we do need to review that system as a whole. We need to ensure the whole thing works together so patients get safe and effective care whenever they need it.”

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