A study has found that NHS walk-in centres near railway stations are not meeting their full potential, seeing only a small percentage of the patients they capably could.
Six centres were set up in 2004 to target commuters in London, Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds, at a cost of £50 million. They were initially funded by the Department of Health, but are run by private firms.
They offer access to a doctor between the hours of 7am and 7pm during the week, unlike other walk-in centres run by nurses.
But researchers from the University of Sheffield say the centres are wasting money, as some cost twice as much as other surgeries, while only seeing around 30 patients.
The study found that between 33 and 101 patients were being seen each day, while the clinics have a capacity for up to 180. It also concluded that four of the six centres were not in easily-accessible locations.
Study leader Dr Alicia O'Cathain said: "At the start and end of the day people are in a rush, but the way that people use walk-in centres is to go in their lunchtime."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "It will be for primary care trusts to decide whether to continue providing these services and whether they offer the best value for money."
Copyright Press Association 2009
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Typical of the DH: force PCTs to deliver these centres regardless of the need and then leave the PCTs to mop up the mess. Developing facilities for commuters, whilst a laudible aim, is not something that the NHS can afford. This cash limited service runs on rationing and making the best use of resources and squandering money on luxuries while the basics are failing is political interference at its worse!" – Name and address withheld