The flagship Darzi centre hailed by former health secretary Alan Johnson as ‘the future of general practice' is set to have its opening hours drastically cut and could even face closure after a PCT admitted it was too expensive to continue running in its current form.
The Hillside Bridge Health centre in Bradford was the first of Lord Ara Darzi's controversial 8am until 8pm GP-led health centres to open as part of the then Labour Government's nationwide rollout back in December 2008.
But NHS Bradford and Airedale is now consulting on the future of the centre after it found that the majority of patients using it were already registered elsewhere, creating an expensive duplication of services.
The PCT revealed some patients were even using the service for a second opinion, after they have already seen their own GP, and admitted there was ‘no evidence that people's overall health has improved as a result of using the walk-in service'.
A consultation which concludes at the end of August is asking patients for their views on the future of the centre.
It reads: ‘What we have found is that most patients who are using Hillside Bridge GP-led Health Centre are already registered with another local GP in the area.'
‘Some are using the service because they say they cannot get appointments with their own GP. Some are even using the service because they want a second opinion, after they have already seen their own GP.'
The consultation paper urges patients to see their own GP rather than use the centre. It says: ‘We believe that the most appropriate service for patients to use, when they have a minor illness, is their own GP.'
‘Your own GP has your medical records available to them, and they know you and your health better.'
‘Your own GP is also contracted to provide urgent care, if you should need it, from 8am to 6.30pm on weekdays. But the high number of people using Hillside Bridge, who already have a GP, means we are effectively double paying for this service.
It suggests reducing the opening hours for non-registered patients to 12:00pm – 8:00pm seven days a week or 2:00pm – 8:00pm seven days a week.
The trust said any changes to opening hours would be an interim measure, and pledged to review the service in six months time, and subsequently carry out a wider public consultation to assess the viability of all urgent care services in the area.
It said many more users than expected were using the service, but it was not providing value for money. It added: ‘Unfortunately the service is rarely being used by the most socially excluded members of the community and there is no evidence that people's overall health has improved as a result of using the walk-in service.'