New QEII Welwyn Garden City urgent care centre: decision on ending overnight service to be made this week

The urgent care centre at the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Alan Davies.

A decision over the urgent care centre at the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City's opening hours will be made this week - Credit: Alan Davies

The 24 hour urgent care centre (UCC) in Welwyn Garden City may have its overnight service cut later this week after a decision on its future was postponed at the start of the pandemic.

The Governing Body of NHS East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning is meeting virtually on Thursday to decide whether to change the opening hours of the New QEII Hospital’s UCC for minor injuries and illness.

Patients with minor injuries or illnesses should use the NHS111 service before going to the New QEII

Overnight use at the UCC has been 'very low' - Credit: Alan Davies

2019 proposal

The GP-led governing body is re-visiting a proposal first considered in 2019 to close the UCC to patients arriving after 10pm every night and reopen at 8am every morning.

The proposal was made because:

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  • due to recruitment difficulties, there was no doctor at the UCC after midnight. People who need to see a doctor between midnight and 8am are referred elsewhere (such as the Lister) or asked to call NHS 111.
  • on average, less than one person per hour was visiting the UCC between 10pm and 8am
  • the UCC always must be staffed by at least two highly skilled nurses, for safety reasons. These staff could be better used to treat more of the area’s seriously unwell patients at the Emergency Department of the Lister Hospital
  • children cannot be seen at the UCC between midnight and 8am
  • patients cannot be X-rayed at the UCC after 11pm.

An extensive public engagement campaign was held between June and September 2019, during which residents and stakeholders were invited to discuss the CCG’s proposals at numerous drop-in sessions and public meetings.

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Following this engagement, the governing body voted in October 2019 to keep the UCC open overnight until March 2020 and to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the UCC and other urgent care and out-of-hours services.

They agreed to meet again in spring 2020 and make a final decision, based on whether attendances had increased enough to justify keeping the UCC open overnight. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic meant the decision has been postponed until this week.

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 - Credit: Alan Davies

Current position

From April 2020 onwards overnight use of the UCC has remained very low, with the exception being a four-month period between January and April 2021 when the centre was temporarily closed overnight by East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust due to staffing pressures.

This is despite East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust’s efforts to divert minor illness and injury patients from the Lister Hospital in Stevenage to the UCC.

The Governing Body’s decision will be made available on the CCG’s website before the end of the week.

The meeting will be held virtually at 1.10pm this Thursday, with papers available on the CCG’s website at this address:

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