Local residents meet with NHS CrossCity CCG to discuss the future of Katie Road Walk-In Centre

At a meeting organised and led by Steve McCabe, MP for Selly Oak, local residents met with Dr Galvin Ralston, Chair of Birmingham CrossCity CCG, Dr Barbara King, Chief Accountability Officer and Carol Herity, Head of Urgent Care for the CCG to discuss the future of Katie Road Walk-in Centre.


On Thursday 6 February 2014, over 60 local residents braved the stormy weather to question the people in charge of Katie Road NHS Walk-In Centre about its future and why the CCG are considering moving the service close to the Accident & Emergency centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital site. Local residents stressed how much they valued the Katie Road Walk-In Centre and wanted answers about its future and consultation the CCG was planning. At the beginning of the meeting, Dr Gavin Ralston stated that he had no intention of closing the Walk-In Centre unless he came up with something better but wanted to review the options through dialogue with service users. 


Katie Road Walk-In Centre sees about 51,000 patients in the course of the year; about 250 every weekend and an average of 40 people most afternoons. Since last year, Steve McCabe has been campaigning for transparency in the CCG’s decision making process and in March 2013 wrote to the Chair of Birmingham South CCG, calling for patients to be placed at the centre of any decision making concerning Katie Road NHS Walk-In Centre.


CCG representatives eventually agreed to a public meeting and admitted that Walk-In Centres are cheaper than Accident & Emergency services. In answer to a question from a local resident, Dr Barbara King told residents that a Walk-In Centre appointment costs on average £45 and an A&E visit costs a minimum of between £75-over £100 depending on the treatment needed. Dr Gavin Ralston recognised that walk-in centres are popular and it would be irresponsible to change them “willy nilly.” Carol Herity, Head of Urgent Care said that at present, informal consultations are being run with a more focused one due in April 2014. Following this, a decision will be made on formally consulting on Katie Road Walk-In Centre and this was expected to commence in September 2014.


Steve McCabe MP said:


“I am pleased that the CCG representatives agreed to meet with local residents to answer their concerns. It was evident from the number of people who turned up that the public really cares about the future of Katie Road Walk-In Centre.


“I am astonished that this has been dragging on for quite so long with so much uncertainty and that they are still planning to consult especially as I understand that the CCG and Chair of the Health and Well Being Board have guaranteed the future of a similar Walk-In Centre in Erdington. I am considering an FOI request on the data and evidence used to arrive at that decision. Although the CCG says no decision has been made, they must have realised that if they are serious about listening to people, it was obvious that a majority of my constituents aren’t in favour of moving the Walk-In Centre to the A&E department. I recently ran a survey on the Katie Road Walk-In Centre which revealed that 56% of people use it for out of hours emergency medical care. I share the concerns of my constituents and I think that it is important that we take advantage of the pre-consultation phase to prepare our case before they head to a formal consultation.”


For a summary of questions and answers asked at the meeting please see below.


Katie Road Walk-In Centre Meeting – Thursday 6 February 2014, St Andrew’s Methodist Church


Timeline, as indicated by CrossCity CCG representatives:


Autumn 2013 - Broad consultation began


April 2014 - Pre – consultation phase, more focused, the CCG will look specifically at what they are going to consult on based on feedback so far.


September 2014 - Conclusion of pre-consultation phase/decision to be made to formally consult on the future of Katie Road Walk-In Centre


Practical Questions


·         Where would people go if the Walk-In Centre were moved? It is important to have local services for local people. In my experience there is a much lower waiting time than at GP’s or A&E.

Dr Gavin Ralston:The service itself would not change but patients would be able to take advantage of being close to A&E, it would make it easier on emergency care services to transfer patients.


·         If the centre were to be relocated, service users would have trouble parking, particularly the elderly and parents with young children, how would you deal with that?

Dr Gavin Ralston:Yes, parking would be an issue but it is too far down the line for me to answer.


·         If GP surgeries came together, wouldn’t you just end up as a walk in centre? Is Katie Road Walk-In Centre just another service being targeted primarily for financial reasons as a result of the Government’s cuts to the NHS.

Dr Barbara King:A proportion of appointments would work on a walk in format, so the GP structure would not necessarily be run in the same way that walk-in centre’s are.


Emergency admissions and ambulances are the NHS’s two biggest expenditures. If there were no walk-in centres it wouldn’t really reduce expenditure in urgent care so financial reasons aren’t driving our decision to consult.


·         If walk in centres are so cheap, why not have more? The CumberlegeReport recommended that health should be made more accessible, health policies just seem to be going around and around, why isn’t more attention paid to costs associated with the QE, how do you fund it?

Dr Gavin Ralston:Urgent appointments are still cheaper in GP Practices; walk-in centres are still more expensive so it is not really feasible to open more. The NHS reorganises itself quickly, we shouldn’t rush in to change anything, yes, walk-in centres are popular and it would be irresponsible to change them willy nilly.


·         What would determine your decision and when will it be made?

Dr Gavin Ralston:Service users will determine the existence of walk-in centres, we will come back with proposals, we will listen and take into account local provider trusts and the national picture. We are currently trialling a GP walk-in centre at Heartlands trust at the moment. We want to make sure that patients are happy.


Carol Herity:Since Autumn 2013, we have been consulting, come April 2014, we want to move into a pre-consultation phase where we will look at what we are going to consult on i.e. A&E, community health providers etc. September will include all the results from the pre-consultation work; we want to have more meetings with service users. We have a real opportunity to tweak services to deliver a better urgent care system.


·         I represent a carers group, how much will it cost if I walk into Katie Road compared to A&E?

Dr Barbara King: A walk-in centre appointment costs £45 and an A&E visit costs between £75-over £100 depending on the treatment needed.


·         I was on the board of the Primary Care Trust (former governing body) and we opened Katie Road walk-in centre to stop people going to A&E inappropriately, is it saving money and doing the job? Many who use Katie Road are not registered with GPs i.e. the homeless, what happens to them?

Dr Gavin Ralston:Based on journals, it is thought that walk-in centres do not impact A&E numbers as the level of illness isn’t as high or critical for patients who use walk-in centres.


·         Why is it important to have Katie Road move to A&E if it isn’t used for critical illnesses? I have 3 kids under 9, is it all just boiling down to money?

Dr Barbara King:We need emergency and urgent care centres as they are different to walk-in centres. It isn’t just about money, it is about patients who use A&E inappropriately knowing where they should go or easing pressure off A&E staff by referring them to a walk-in centre close by.


A formal consultation is expected to begin in September 2014.

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