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Walk-in centres in primary care: a review of the international literature

Salisbury, C. and Munro, J. (2003) Walk-in centres in primary care: a review of the international literature. British Journal of General Practice, 53 (486). pp. 53-59. ISSN 0960-1643


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Nurse-led walk-in centres were first announced in April 1999. They represent a new development in unscheduled care provision in the United Kingdom (UK) National Health Service (NHS). By the end of 2000, 40 NHS walk-in centres had been opened, with further centres recently announced. This paper aims to review international experience with walk-in centres in primary and emergency care and identify relevant lessons for the UK.

This study is a systematic review, with qualitative synthesis of relevant findings. Studies were identified from seven major bibliographic databases using a sensitive search strategy, and 244 relevant documents relating to walk-in or ‘ambulatory care’ centres were identified. Users of walk-in centres in other countries tend to be a relatively affluent population of working age, and a different population from those using conventional general practice services. Walk-in centres are used particularly when other health services are closed. The problems presented are mainly minor illnesses and minor injuries. People choose this form of care mainly for reasons of convenience, and satisfaction with the service is generally high. The very limited evidence available suggests that walk-in centres provide care of reasonable quality, but there is insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions about the impact of walk-in centres on other healthcare services or the costs of such care.

Although a number of countries have had a long experience of walk-in centres, the lack of reliable evidence on many of the most important issues is notable. In the NHS, walk-in centres represent a radically innovative attempt to improve access to health care, but the limited research available does little to inform their development. Important questions that need to be addressed include whether walk-in centres do improve access to care, for whom, and at what overall cost.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 2003 British Journal of General Practice
Keywords: walk-in centres, ambulatory care, systematic review
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield) > School of Health and Related Research (Sheffield) > Medical Care Research Unit (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > University of Sheffield Research Centres and Institutes > Medical Care Research Unit (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2005
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2014 08:48
Published Version: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/journal/
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/600

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