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Walk-in centres perform well compared with general practice

An observational study comparing quality of care in walk-in centres with general practice and NHS Direct using standardised patients, BMJ Volume 324, pp 1556-9

BMJ

NHS walk-in centres provide adequate and safe clinical care to a range of patients compared with general practice and NHS Direct, concludes a study in this week's BMJ.

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.

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