Headlines: January 6th, 2004

The National Health Service is to set up eleven new Walk-In Centres, bringing the total number to 64. They are to be paid for from the three year 40 million pound investment package announced last July.The new centres will be in Barking and Dagenham, Brighton, Colchester, Darlington, Gateshead, Huntingdon, Lewisham, Prestwich, Salford, Skelmersdale and Sunderland. At the same time some of the existing sites are beginning to provide additional services such as prescribing by nurses and access to GP services. The Manchester centre, for example, is to provide a satellite service in Wytheshawe town centre.

The Walk-In Centres are designed to give easy access to advice and treatment for minor ailments and injuries. More than 4 million patients have made use of them since the first was opened in 2000.

The NHS Plan promises that by the end of this year all patients should be seen by a GP within two working days or by a primary care professional in one day. All Accident and Emergency patients should be seen within four hours. The health minister, John Hutton, said the new centres were one of the ways in which the government was making access to primary care easier. The centres offered patients more choice and more convenient access to services, which was particularly useful to people such as those who commuted to work and who found it difficult to go to a GP during working hours.