BOTH of the borough's walk-in centres are facing closure under radical new plans from health bosses.

NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced that it is considering shutting down the Bury Urgent Treatment Centre and Prestwich Walk-in Centre.

The shake-up of urgent care in the borough would see more resources directed to the A&E department at Fairfield General Hospital, with GP practice staff working alongside hospital teams to provide a "more integrated" system.

A report submitted to the CCG's governing body said that A&E services are experiencing "unprecedented levels of sustained pressure" and that the range of urgent care services in Bury have created a "confusing, complex picture" for patients.

The contract for both walk-in centres, operated by Pennine Care Foundation Trust, expires in March 2017 and, if these plans are approved, the CCG would not renew that deal.

The centres, which had a combined attendance of more than 67,000 in 2015/16, cost the CCG more than £800,000 to operate. 

The newly-proposed model would see patients who call 999 or NHS111 directed either to a 'virtual hub' or to face-to-face treatment at hospitals, GP practices, and other services.

Walk-in centre closure plans branded 'ridiculous'

Dr Victoria Moyle, the CCG's lead GP for urgent care, said: "Our review of urgent care services tells us that the current system is very complex, there is some duplication and patients are often confused about the best service to meet their needs. We also know that we need to be working more closely with social care to provide a more holistic service.

"The proposed future model would deliver care beyond that currently offered, offering clinical assessment, advice and treatment in a co-ordinated way through a single point of access.

"This new way of working would retain a balance between walk in services, rapidly bookable appointments and routine services, whilst promoting self care and bridging the gap that exists now between health and social care.

"The vision includes a strengthened triage system at Fairfield General Hospital’s A&E department which would see General Practice staff working alongside hospital teams, ensuring patients who come to A&E receive the most appropriate care to meet their needs.

"The proposed model would mean that demand for our two Walk-in Centres in Bury and Prestwich would be reduced, and it is proposed that the funding associated with these facilities is redirected to support further investment to deliver the proposed urgent care redesign."

Health chiefs are planning to present these plans to the public at upcoming township forum meetings, with a two-month 'engagement process' due to start today (Thursday, September 1).

The results of that process will then be presented to the CCG governing body in December, when a final decision will be taken.

Dr Moyle added: "It is important that the views of patients, members of the public and stakeholders are captured on the proposed future model for urgent care so that these views can be fully considered in any future decision."

According to the report, patients have been left unsure whether to seek help at A&E, walk-in centres, their GP, pharmacies, or over the NHS111 advice line.

It adds: "Our local A&E services are currently experiencing unprecedented a levels of sustained pressure. PAHT is currently failing the national target that requires 95 per cent of all patients attending an A&E department to be dealt with within 4 hours.

"Colleagues in PAHT report an increase in the complexity of A&E presentations at the same time as many patients attending A&E who are considered to have a primary care level of need.

"Bury replicates national trends seeing an ageing population with increasing levels of long term conditions who are living longer which adds to demand on services.

"Of particular concern are the discharge pathways out of hospital into community and local authority services, which require greater levels of integration to achieve the smoothest possible patient journey.

"The above situation is compounded by having a range of urgent care options for patients leading to confusion about the most appropriate place to be treated. The configuration of urgent care services in Bury today reflects evolution rather than grand design."

Stuart Richardson, Director of Community Services Bury at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We received notification from the CCG ahead of its meeting last week that a redesign of urgent care services was going to be proposed, which included potential closure of the two Walk in Centre services we provide.

"Staff have been notified and we are now working closely with the CCG to better understand how the proposals may impact Pennine Care services, staff and our patients. An effective urgent care system is vital to help keep people well and out of hospital. 

“We will take an active role in the two month engagement period to ensure the outcome will be one that benefits Bury residents.”