Future of Angel walk-in doctors’ service in doubt

Service that began operating from medical centre in 2009, offering same-day appointments, could close next year

Friday, 5th October 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Islington councillor janet burgess

Council health chief Janet Burgess

ISLINGTON’S only “walk-in” doctors’ service, in Angel, could close next year, with health chiefs deciding whether more appointments could be given to other GP practices.

The service began operating from Ritchie Street Medical Centre in 2009, offering same-day appointments, seven days a week, to patients regardless of where they live. It was one of 230 walk-in centres opened across England.

But with its £789,000 annual 10-year contract due to expire in March next year, Islington Clinical Commissioning Group is deciding whether to recommission the service, currently provided by Angel Medical Services.

Instead, it proposes offering more same-day appointments at other GP surgeries or commissioning a provider to offer extra appointments at “hubs” in the borough.

Council health chief Janet Burgess said: “I think either of [the options] would work fine. What struck me is that people who go to the Ritchie Street centre are very local. Somebody in Archway just would not go down there.”

The current set-up in Angel means medics are unable to access patients’ records and are reliant on people recalling their own medical history.

Also, appointments can only be made face-to-face on the day, as opposed to online or over the phone.

The I:Hub service, introduced in 2016, allows residents to book an urgent appointment over the phone in the evenings and at weekends, known as “extended access”.

Emma Whitby, chief executive of watchdog group Healthwatch, said a redistribution of appointments across the borough would make availability more equal.

However, she said questions remained about how residents not registered in the borough would then be catered for.

“We welcome that the CCG is discussing it, not just imposing the changes,” said Ms Whitby. “People do say positive things about the walk-in centre: that it’s quick and easy to access. It’s not clear though, if you’re visiting from out of town, where are you going to be seen? We are interested to know how that would be managed in any change.”

A spokesman for the CCG said: “No decisions have been made and the CCG is committed to maintaining the same level of investment in same-day GP appoint­ments. As part of this process, the CCG is engaging with the public about the future provision of this service and the range of options available.”

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