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Monitor to investigate effect of Darzi centre closures on patient choice

Monitor has launched an inquiry into the closure of several Darzi walk-in centres and whether it has had an adverse impact on patient choice or impacted on the rising pressure on A&E departments.

The health regulator says it will investigate the closure of the walk-in centres that were introduced by the previous Labour government, with reports suggesting as many as 40 walk-in centres have closed or plan to close in the past three years.

Pulse revealed in 2011 that PCTs were paying undisclosed sums in compensation to close the Darzi centres in response to ‘low demand’.

Monitor says it wants to determine why the closures are happening and whether it has prevented patients from accessing either routine or urgent care without an appointment.

Private companies, who run many of the services, have complained the rate of closure has accelerated since the beginning of the year.

Catherine Davies, executive director of co-operation and competition at Monitor, said: ‘It is in the interests of patients to find out why walk-in centres are closing and whether the closures are affecting patient choice and competition.

‘Walk-in centres are very popular with patients and the potential impact of such closures at a local and national level needs to be better understood.’

NHS Partners Network chief executive David Worskett - which represents private providers in the NHS - welcomed the review.

He said: ‘This is something we have been calling for since the start of this year. We have become increasingly concerned that in some areas, walk-in centres are being closed or are under threat of closure even though they may be providing valuable access to primary care at times of day, or for groups of people, for whom the much more restricted opening times of conventional GP practices are too inflexible.’

Readers' comments (4)

  • Vinci Ho

    (1) this is not going to be on the front page of tabloids , is it?
    (2) How much taxpayers' money had been spent on opening and closing these services? Hence , how much money is this inquiry going to cost?
    (3) Although there were a lot of differences in opinions about WIC when they first appeared , they still served frontline purposes as far as OOH services are concerned . For example , some OOH providers used WIC facilities to provide face to face consultations .
    But then it was a legacy of previous government and so current government must destroy that . Same old story of politics with no need of common sense. Of course , the main reason to close was pure and blind cost cutting . Thanks to Nicholson Challenge .......

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  • Will Monitor be looking at the effects of A&E closures and DH forced reconfigurations on Patient Choice as well?
    What are their criteria for investigating possible reductions in Patient Choice?

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  • Their criteria are that they look at anything as long as it's not something that the govt has messed up. Consequently, they have a small remit.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Will Monitor (trying to find a function for itself) also investigate the lack of patient choice in areas with a monopoly GP practice? Will they force good big practices, such as the one in Frome where there is no competition, to split in half.
    Surely they have something better to do.
    Would be nice if they looked at value for money and worked out how much better local GP services could be with the investment which was in many places wasted in unwanted Darzi centres. It may be that an 8-8 service is "popular" but does that make it good or necessary in a cash-strapped economy? And could local GP services also provide an 8-8 service if they were funded at the same level per patient as some of the Darzi centres?

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