THE walk-in centre in Hereford could be changed into a GP surgery as healthcare bosses consider the future of the service.

At the end of March next year two contracts which run primary care services in Herefordshire, including the walk-in centre by Asda, will end, giving the opportunity to NHS Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to change the way services are provided.

One of the options being looked at is no longer providing a walkin centre in Hereford, and instead having a GP practice where people can register and attend booked appointments from 8am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday.

This would be a spoke of the new GP hub which will see three practices join together.

The CCG is also considering moving the out of hours Taurus service from Wargrave House Surgery in St Owen’s Street to the walk-in centre, which would provide appointments until 8.30pm during the week and 8am to 8pm at the weekend.

Simon Hairsnape, accountable officer for the CCG, said: “If you are in Hereford city now, it is 6.30pm, your practice has just closed for the night. You have a choice of ringing 111 who may put you through to out of hours.

"Your practice might be open still under extended hours service. You could go to the town’s Taurus hubs, the walk-in centre, A&E or call 999. One of the arguments is we have made it too complex and confusing, so people just ring 999 and go to A&E.

“Too many people go to A&E who don’t need to go there.”

But he said following public engagement, people said they want to see their GP first and foremost, as they hold their notes and understand the patient.

And he said for a long time they have wanted further good quality GP care in the South Wye area, as currently eight out of nine GP practices are north of the river, whereas the need is greater south of the river.

He said it is costing £1.2m a year to run the walk-in centre while at the same time they are paying for people to be registered with a GP.

Lesley Woakes, head of primary care, said Hereford is one of the last places in the country to still have a walk-in centre and that they have discovered from people who use the centre that some do not ring their GP practice before going to the centre.

She said: “What we also know about the walk-in centre from surveys of patients is that 13 per cent would have self-cared and eight per cent of them would have gone to a pharmacy if the walk-in centre wasn’t available.

"It is about ease of access and convenience.”

Mrs Woakes said a proposed new central GP hub, which would combine three surgeries, and be located near to Hereford Railway Station would also improve primary care in the city and be more attractive for recruiting doctors.

They are also looking at the Minor Injury Units in Kington, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye and Ledbury and whether these could be provided by GPs in the local area.

Before any decision is made by the CCG there is a two-step process. The first is a listening exercise and the second is a consultation phase which is expected to start in mid January.