Headlines: April 14th, 1999

Twenty pilot health clinics offering a walk in service are to be set up in places where people work and shop. The clinics will be located in libraries, pharmacies and supermarkets and provide a service from 7 am to 10 pm. They will be staffed by nurses and run by GPs, and are aimed at giving patients faster, more convenient access to medical advice and to treatment for some minor ailments. The pilots will cost £30m and funding will come from the NHS Modernisation Fund.

Prime Minister Tony Blair announcing the scheme said: “We need to think of new ways of responding to patients’ needs. We need to offer a new option for people who perhaps, because of their hours or their job location find it difficult to use existing services. A busy working woman, juggling home and work responsibilities, needed flexible and fast access to health advice – a service that traditional primary care found difficult to provide.

Fears have been expressed that the clinics may provide sub standard care, because a one off contact places a doctor at a disadvantage compared to a normal ongoing doctor patient relationship.