A walk-in GP centre in Northfleet serving thousands of patients is closing its doors today (June 30) after 10 years of service, ahead of a major mix-up of urgent care services in the area.
The White Horse facility posted saying “this is not goodbye, just a change of form,” as the walk-in service closes as part of plans to replace it with two new ‘urgent treatment centres’ in Dartford and Gravesend, although work to set them up has been delayed.
Health bosses say this is the “next steps in an exciting journey,” although due to Covid-19 there would be no final party fo celebrate its 10 years of service.
They have also said that patients served by the walk-in service in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley will still be able to see a GP if they urgently need to.
The Springhead Health Surgery will remain open, but walk-in services will now be hosted at Gravesham Community Hospital’s new urgent treatment services, treating minor illness and injuries.
The second centre will be based at Darent Valley Hospital, working in partnership with the A&E Department.
The move, proposed by the NHS and agreed by the former Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in January, is expected to cost £85 million over the next five years.
This follows an extensive consultation with the public held last year, with the CCGs deciding January to establish the two urgent treatment centres.
Part of that decision meant that Fleet Healthcare’s contract to provide walk-in GP services would not be renewed when it expired on June 30, 2020.
In a Facebook post to patients last week, the Northfleet centre thanked the “exceptional staff, medical, nursing and administrative, who have provided a service second to none for over 10 years.”
“The Covid-19 crisis has overshadowed our last months, and there will be no final party of the sort that White Horse Surgery Walk-In Centre occasionally threw in celebration of notable NHS events.
“But the lessons learned about telephone and video call triage that we have had to apply will be useful in the new UTC and revamped 111, so the three hour queues may be a thing of the past.
“This is not goodbye, just a change of form, and we hope that the public will be as happy with the new, as they were with the old.”
They added that some staff would be moving to ‘parallel roles’ in the new sites,
The CCG said patients who need to urgently see a GP after 30 June 2020 should contact their regular GP practice, which should be able to offer an on-the-day appointment if clinically needed.
If they cannot get an appointment with their practice, they should call NHS 111 for advice and direction to the nearest available service where appropriate. Patients who are not registered with a GP practice should do so as soon as possible.
The minor injury unit at Gravesham Community Hospital, Gravesend, remains open for urgent minor injuries and some minor illnesses. For life-threatening conditions, patients should call 999.
GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Navin Kumta, said: “We are taking the next steps in the exciting journey to create linked urgent treatment centres for patients in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley across both sites, as decided earlier this year.
“I would like to reassure the public that they will still be able to see a GP urgently if they need to.
“We have been working hard to improve access to GP appointments for the past two years. Practices should be able to offer on the day appointments to patients who clinically need them.
“There is a triage system in place to help identify those patients who need to be seen on the same day. Most patients will be able to be seen by their own practice but some may be asked to visit another local surgery for their appointment.”
As a result of Covid-19, demand for the GP walk-in centre has been lower than usual since March 2020, and due to “the need to prioritise the NHS response to the pandemic,” the planning for the linked urgent treatment centres “has not progressed as quickly as envisaged.”
The CCG continues to work with partners Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust to design and introduce linked urgent treatment centres across the two sites in future.