The preliminary findings of the review acknowledged that some services offer poor value for money, and suggested that a re-organisation of primary care commissioning could improve the contracting of these services.
The review, which surveyed around 1,900 people at 20 walk-in centres, found that almost a quarter of all walk-in centres had closed in the past three years, limiting the access of patients who “find it difficult to engage with the traditional model of GP services” to primary care services.
The report also found that 22% of patients had struggled to get a GP appointment and a further 24% had not contacted their GP as they doubted they would be able to get an appointment, raising further access concerns.
Commissioners have criticised walk-in centres for making them ‘pay twice’ for patients – once when they register with a GP and again when they seek treatment at a walk-in centre – but the report suggests that walk-in centres could be instrumental in keeping A&E admissions down.
Catherine Davies, Monitor’s executive director of co-operation and competition, said: “We’ve been told that one in five people would choose to go to an accident and emergency department if the walk-in centre wasn’t there for them.
“While it is for commissioners to decide whether to keep a walk-in centre open, we need to make sure that the needs of patients are fully considered before decisions are taken.”
Monitor’s report went on to highlight the confusion caused by the division of primary care commissioning duties, calling for either NHS England (who commission GP services) or the CCGs (who commission urgent and community care) to take over sole responsibility for commissioning primary care services to improve integration.