The research team chose five clinical scenarios, representing problems likely to be presented by patients to walk-in centres. Professional role players then carried out 297 consultations in 20 walk-in centres, 20 general practices, and 11 NHS Direct sites in and around three UK cities.
Considering all scenarios together, walk-in centres achieved a significantly greater mean score than general practices and NHS Direct, but there was considerable variation between scenarios.
In contrast to general practices, walk-in centres and NHS Direct referred a higher proportion of patients.
Walk-in centres perform adequately and safely compared to general practice and NHS Direct for the range of conditions under study, say the authors. However, the cost-effectiveness of walk-in centres and their impact on workload of other healthcare providers requires further assessment, they conclude.