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Walk-in centre linked with 26% reduction in daytime A&E visits

Researchers have linked the opening of a walk-in centre to a significant fall in the numbers of daytime attendances for minor ailments at A&E.

The first-ever study of the impact of a new GP-led walk-in centre on other NHS services found a statistically significant 26% reduction in daytime attendances at the adult emergency department after the opening of the centre.

There was also a 7% reduction after the walk-in centre opened at the children’s A&E department, after attendances were adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.

GP led walk-in centres, also known as Darzi centres, or polyclinics, were established in England in 2009 to improve access to GPs as well cut A&E attendances.

However, a recent review by the competition regulator Monitor suggested CCGs were closing walk-in centres as they believe they are ‘paying twice’ for primary care services when patients were registered with local GPs.

But the researchers surveyed over 500 patients visiting the walk-in centre in Sheffield – over a three week period during September and October 2011 – and found 14% said they were diverted from going to the emergency department during the survey period as a result of the establishment of the walk-in centre, the researchers said.

Lead author Dr Mubashir Arain, postgraduate research student at the University of Sheffield said: ‘This reduction was not mirrored in changes in night-time attendances (when the walk-in centre was closed) and our survey responses suggested people some people were diverted from going to the emergency department, it is possible that the opening of the walk-in centre caused this reduction.’

The study was published this month in the journal Emergency Medicine.