Urgent treatment centres

Urgent treatment centres (UTCs) are GP-led, open at least 12 hours a day, every day, offer appointments that can be booked through 111 or through a GP referral, and are equipped to diagnose and deal with many of the most common ailments people attend A&E for.

UTCs will also ease the pressure on hospitals, leaving other parts of the system free to treat the most serious cases. The UTC offer will result in decreased attendance at A&E, or, in co-located services offer the opportunity for streaming at the front door. All UTC services will be considered a Type 3 A&E.

Why change?

The patient always comes first, and as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) the NHS’ aim is to ensure patients get the care they need, fast, and to relieve pressure on A&E departments.

The reasons for this are simple. We all know where to go when life is in danger – A&E, but estimates suggest up to 3 million people who come to A&E each year could have their needs addressed elsewhere in the urgent care system. However patients have told us the range of alternatives available can be confusing – Walk in Centres, Urgent Care Centres, Minor Injury Units and others with local names and all with differing levels of service.  So A&E is understandably the default choice for many people unsure where to turn when they need urgent care or advice.

This is bad for the NHS because it puts unnecessary pressure on A&E and other parts of the urgent and emergency care system, and it’s bad for patients because many are treated in the wrong setting.

Commonality of service provision under the UTC name will increasingly end the current confusing range of options and simplify the system so patients know where to go and have clarity of which services are on offer wherever they are in the country.

UTCs will work alongside other parts of the urgent care network including primary care, community pharmacists, ambulance and other community-based services to provide a locally accessible and convenient alternative to A&E for patients who do not need to attend hospital.

Watch this short animation to find out more about urgent treatment centres and where they fit in the urgent and emergency care system.

What’s happening?

The first cohort of UTCS are now operational in over 100 sites across the country.

Currently, local commissioners, supported by NHS England regions, continue to redesign urgent care services outside of A&E aiming to designate all remaining type 3&4 services as UTCs or to change their function to become other primary health care services by December 2019.  As stated in the LTP, by autumn 2020 the UTC model will be fully implemented.  This means UTCs will be embedded as part of a consistent ‘out-of-hospital urgent care’ offer in all localities with the option of appointments booked through a call to NHS 111.