Closing the New QEII at night permanently still to be considered

The Urgent Care Centre at The New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Alan Davies

The Urgent Care Centre at The New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Alan Davies - Credit: Alan Davies

Facing a surge in COVID-19 patients, East and North Herts NHS Trust decided to close the New QEII in Welwyn Garden City from 10pm to 8am last week so it could direct nurses to the Lister in Stevenage. 

These are the same hours the urgent care centre was looked at being shut under a proposal by the East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group, which manages NHS services, back in 2019. 

And now an NHS spokesperson has said: “This emergency, short-term arrangement will remain in place while the Lister continues to face extreme staffing challenges and the trust has committed to reviewing it weekly. 

“The Urgent Care Centre’s opening hours and service model for the longer term will be considered by East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust at a time when the NHS is not managing the demands of the COVID pandemic.” 

In late October, before the General Election, the CCG said it would decide in March 2020 whether to keep the minor illnesses and emergency centre open but the final decision was paused due to the pandemic.

It also pledged, during that year, to make people aware of the service at night, when children cannot be seen and two advanced highly-qualified nurses are on shift, so footfall might increase. 

The CCG said, in 2019, an average of fewer than one person per hour - between 10pm and 6am - drop in for treatment,  and it maintains the use is similar now after all patients with minor issues were diverted from the Lister Hospital in March 2020 to the urgent care centre. 

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As a result, a decision has been taken to temporarily close the urgent care centre at 10pm to new patients, reopening at 8am, to enable clinical staff to help their colleagues at the Lister Hospital, which is under sustained pressure. 

Welwyn Hatfield's major political groups including the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems, along with its MP Grant Shapps, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, Hatfield Town Council and North Mymms Parish Council all strongly opposed the night closure in October 2019 - while Herts County Council, local GP groups and East and North Herts NHS Trust had agreed with the CCG.