Full clinic 'forcing patients into A&E'
PATIENTS needing immediate treatment for minor medical conditions are being turned away by a walk-in centre.
Instead they are pushed into A&E, which is trying to stop its staff being over-run by these sort of patients.
Now the Midway unit in Newcastle town centre is to be part of a new review of all walk-in services across North Staffordshire just announced by health managers.
It was set up amid fears that, along with the Haywood centre in Burslem, the Midway is not working efficiently enough to take pressure off the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, which is struggling to cope with record numbers of A&E patients.
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The problem at the four-year-old Midway – in Morston House next to the Roebuck Shopping Centre – was highlighted by NHS watchdogs.
Leaders of the borough council's health screening committee claimed its remit had changed over the past two years as so many patients had registered with its GPs that there were not enough slots left for walk-in patients.
Chairman Colin Eastwood said: "I had been sent there for a medical test and while in the waiting room I watched as at least five patients walked in off the street for medical attention.
"They all went over to the desk only to be asked if they were registered there.
"When they said they were not they were given appointments for the following day.
"So they left saying they would go straight to A&E where they could guarantee to be seen that day.
"The Midway seems to be operating as a GP service now when its remit was to have been a medical and walk-in centre."
Mr Eastwood, a Wolstanton councillor, questioned whether the change had come since the nearby High Street practice shut last March.
That could have led to so many of its 5,000 patients registering with GPs at the Midway, no appointments were left for walk-in cases from the street.
The centre is run by North Staffordshire Primary Care Trust, which will be taken over by the area's new GP-led clinical commissioning group (CCG) in April.
CCG chairman Dr Mark Shapley said: "We will not be commissioning the Midway centre – after April 1 that will be the role of the new NHS Commissioning Board."
But, announcing the general review of walk-in services, accountable officer Dr David Hughes, a Leek GP, said: "They may have to work slightly differently than how they do now. We need to make the best use of these centres."
The PCT website still describes the Midway as a "medical and walk-in centre service – if appointments are available – whether patients are registered with the practice or not."
It also provides healthy living services, advice and tests.