Soho walk-in centre must change or face closure

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Correspondent

NHS chiefs are working out how to transform services at the Soho walk-in centre before a deadline of March 31, or it may need to close.

The popular centre, just south of Soho Square Gardens, gets an average of 4,200 visits per month.

The majority of its patients are city workers who pop in either side of their commute for treatment of minor ailments and injuries.

Without the centre, their alternative would be to wait for a GP appointment at their local practice, or face hours of queuing at an A&E.

NHS England has overseen a number of similar closures. The Guardian newspaper reported in 2018 that 95 walk-in centres had closed across the country since 2010. Others have been turned into GP-led “urgent treatment centres,” where an appointment is required. In West London, Parsons Green walk-in centre is also facing potential closure.

On January 15, the Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which manages local health services, held a board meeting to discuss the centre’s future.

The board decided it will hastily “develop a set of future options” for the centre by March 31, in collaboration with the managers of University College Hospital and the CCG for Camden.

One of these options will then be presented in a “business case” and be approved by NHS England.

While developing these future options, the Central London CCG will “undertake engagement with local stakeholders, including local residents, on the current service and the requirement for there to be change”.

The board’s report continues: “This engagement will be undertaken during February and will inform the business case that is presented to the Governing Body in due course on the options and recommendations for moving forward.”

Explaining the need for change, the report said: “All services that were previously classified as walk-in centres should either be re-titled urgent treatment centres (and be compliant with the national guidelines) or become primary care hubs.

“The Soho walk-in centre does not meet the criteria to become an urgent treatment centre and neither are there any plans to commission such a service from the centre. Most of the activity currently provided from the walk-in centre is primary care related, or is activity that relates to other commissioners.”

The report also notes that closing the centre could risk provoking “objections by members of the public and other stakeholders, including Westminster County Council and local MPs”.

An NHS spokesman said: “Continuing to provide accessible urgent care to our local communities is an absolute priority…  we’re working with the CCG and NHS England to discuss options for the future of our walk-in centres.”


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