Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford health centre may cut hours to save money

Generic GP prescription
Image caption Some patients were using the service for a second opinion

An NHS walk-in centre has proved so popular, health officials are considering restricting its opening hours to control spiralling costs.

The Hillside Bridge walk-in centre in Barkerend, Bradford, was designed to be used by socially-excluded people who did not have access to a GP.

But residents are using the centre rather than trying to get an appointment with their own doctor.

A public consultation is to begin on the proposed cut in opening hours.

The centre, which opened in 2008, had expected to treat nearly 6,000 patients in its first year of operation - but 13,140 turned up.

In the following year, that figure soared to 23,496.

'Double paying'

Officials at the NHS Bradford and Airedale were told in a briefing paper the costs incurred by the number of people using the centre meant they were effectively "double-paying" for healthcare as GPs were already paid to care for the patients.

Figures put before health officials showed that in an average month, 216 patients from groups the service was intended to care for - such as homeless people, travellers, refugees and drug addicts - sought healthcare.

But in the same month, an average of 641 patients registered with GPs in the area used the centre.

The centre currently opens from 0800 until 2000 seven days a week.

But now health officials are proposing the hours be cut to 1200 until 2000 each day for patients registered with other GPs.

Dr Andy McElligott, the medical director of NHS Bradford and Airedale, states in the briefing paper that some patients are using the centre for second opinions after seeing their own GP.

Dr McElligott said: "The number of non-registered attendees has been far greater than the number which was predicted based on Department of Health information.

"Whilst the service has been useful to individual patients, it has not resulted in demonstrable improvements in health outcomes or cost benefits, and has actually increased demand for urgent care services.

"We have found that a proportion of patients have been using the GP-led Health Centre for a second opinion when they have already been given appropriate advice by their own GP.

"The service provided by the GP-led Health Centre for non-registered patients is therefore a duplication of service provision."

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