Why do we need Urgent Treatment Centres?
October 10, 2023
As we are part of the team who provides GPs to the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) at Arrowe Park, what better way to explain what they are, what they do and why they’re pretty important.
UTCs are a type of urgent and emergency care service that offer fast and convenient access to care for patients with minor injuries and illnesses. Whilst similar, Walk-in-Centres can help with many, but not all, of the same problems as urgent treatment centres. Open every day, at least 12 hours a day, led by GPs and equipped to diagnose and deal with a lot of common issues that people attend A&E for. That way, A&E and other hospital services are freed up to provide treatment to the most serious cases.
Other features and benefits of UTCs are:
- Ensure patients quickly get the care they need, and to reduce pressure on A&E departments, which are often overcrowded and overstretched
- To improve patient satisfaction and outcomes by providing high-quality care in a more efficient way – reducing any confusion among patients about where to go for urgent care, and to ensure they receive the most appropriate service for their needs
- They are led by GPs or other clinicians such as Advanced Nurse Practitioners, with enhanced skills in urgent care
- They offer appointments that can be booked through 111 or through a GP referral, as well as walk-in access for patients who need immediate attention
- They can treat a range of conditions, such as sprains and strains, suspected broken limbs, minor head injuries, cuts and grazes, bites and stings, minor scalds and burns, ear and throat infections, skin infections and rashes, eye problems, coughs and colds, feverish illness in adults and children, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Able to access to diagnostics, such as blood tests and x-rays
- They can prescribe medicines and issue fit notes
- They can refer patients to other services, such as specialist clinics or hospital admission, if needed
How do they support the NHS?
Not only are they beneficial for patients, but for the NHS as a whole. As an alternative to A&E for less serious cases, UTCs can help reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, save costs, and free up staff for more complicated and life-threatening emergencies. They play an important part of the NHS’s goal to improve the quality and accessibility of urgent care in the UK. They also work with other parts of the urgent care network, such as primary care, community pharmacists, ambulance and other community-based services.
If we look at the NHS Long-Term Plan (LTP), which is a plan to make the NHS fit for the future by transforming how care is delivered and improving outcomes for patients, here are some the latest changes for UTCs:
- New performance measures, such as waiting times, patient experience, clinical outcomes and safety
- Encouraged to co-locate with other urgent and emergency care services, such as A&E departments, GP practices, community pharmacies and mental health crisis services, to improve access for patients and combining with other areas
- Supported to adopt new technologies and innovations, such as digital triage, online consultations, telemedicine and artificial intelligence, to enhance patient care and efficiency
Where are they?
According to NHS England, there are currently over 100 UTCs across England, with the aim to add more. They also have different features and functions depending on their location and local needs.
Within Cheshire and Merseyside, there are currently several UTCs in the region, offering a range of services for patients with minor injuries and illnesses, which are:
- Arrowe Park Urgent Treatment Centre which is located at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral. It is open from 8am to 10pm every day and can treat conditions such as sprains, strains, fractures, wounds, infections and eye problems.
- Widnes Urgent Treatment Centre – open from 8am – 9pm, 365 days per year and offering treatment for conditions such as emergency contraception, rashes, burns, cuts and upset stomachs.
- St Helens Urgent Treatment Centre, which is located at St Helens Hospital – open from 7am to 10pm every day and can treat conditions such as cuts, burns, scalds, bites, stings, infections, rashes, ear problems and minor eye injuries.
What should you do if you need help?
If you need same day urgent care, please contact www.111.nhs.uk or call 111, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days per week and they’ll know the best service for your treatment need.
You can also turn up to a UTCs and WICs without an appointment. However, if it’s an emergency or a serious injury, you should dial 999 or go straight to A&E.