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GPs urged to take key role as walk-in centres expand

The Department of Health will announce a further roll-out of NHS walk-in centres next month and call for GPs to take a bigger role in the controversial scheme, Pulse can reveal.

Emergency care tsar Professor Sir George Alberti said the Government would be adding to the £36-million-a-year budget for the centres to increase their number from the current 43.

Last year Sir George said he wanted to see 1,000 walk-in centres in England, but the planned expansion is thought to be limited to a handful of new sites.

The move comes despite Government-commissioned research into the centres which found they are expensive, do not reduce demand on GPs and are not used by the disadvantaged groups they were supposed to target.

The evaluation, published last year, said it would be more cost-effective to give the

money to GPs to provide extra services.

Sir George said the Government wanted GPs with a special interest in emergency care or who already work in casualty departments to work in the nurse-led centres.

'What I am very keen on is that we do expand the off-site centres, which I would see as a combination of walk-in centres and minor illness units ­ emergency care centres with input from GPs,' he said.

'I could see some tie-ups between the walk-in centres and out-of-hours services, with the GPs playing a major supervisory role once we have got enough GPs,' he added.

But Dr Phil Earnshaw, chair of the GPs on Call co-operative in Wakefield which runs the city's walk-in centre, said few GPs would want to work in walk-in centres because the lack of continuity of care would mean little job satisfaction.

'It's certainly not going to be the most attractive job for GPs,' he said.

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