Patients are being reassured that an urgent care centre is not closing despite a row over funding.
Bosses at Corby Urgent Care Centre (UCC) have warned that it will close its doors to patients at 8pm on Friday, March 31, as a result of Corby and Nene Clinical Commissioning Groups’ refusing to organise the extension of a contract in line with minimum fees due under the NHS national tariff.
However, the NHS Corby Clinical Commissioning Group has said it is not closing.
Lakeside+ Limited has operated Corby UCC since 2012 and NHS rules mean the CCGs are supposed to pay national tariff prices.
Centre bosses claim local CCGs have not paid the national tarrif since it came into force in 2014 and, as a result, the centre has run at a loss in recent years.
Despite this, they say the centre’s doctors, nurses and supporting staff have continued to provide class-leading urgent care to patients despite financial losses.
Corby UCC is open 8am to 8pm seven days a week and, while it is contracted to treat 137 patients per day, sees on average 209 patients each day with peaks rising as high as 280, a rate of more than one patient every four minutes.
Dr Martin McGrath of Corby Urgent Care Centre said: “In treating over 76,000 patients each year, Corby Urgent Care Centre has not only hugely reduced attendances at local A&E departments, but it has also saved the NHS at least £2.5 million per annum over what it would have cost to treat the same patients at the crowded Kettering A&E department.
“Had the two CCGs paid at the lawful national referral rate - as set out in statute in the Health Social Care Act 2012 under tariff - the NHS would still save a minimum of £1.275 million against the lowest A&E charge.
“We see over 200 patients a day, of which 75 are children.
“Of these, we treat and send home the vast majority.
“We refer less than 10 patients a day to Kettering General Hospital A&E.
“This delivers an excellent outcome for patients and great benefit to the healthcare system around us and the wider NHS.”
Patients can present at the centre with a range of medical problems from heart attacks and sepsis through to sprains, fractured bones, soft tissue injuries, burns, foreign bodies and head injuries.
The CCGs have indicated that they would like Lakeside+ Ltd to continue running the centre until November 30, 2017, but it is claimed they refuse to pay national NHS prices.
Dr McGrath described the situation as ‘a catastrophe looming’ and said: “I dread the thought of our 75,000 patients descending on Kettering A&E with all of their current needs.” And he added: “The NHS is under massive stress and we can help alleviate some of that pain.
“This is an emotional time for us at the centre as we remain committed to meeting the health needs of our surrounding communities but we need adequate funds to pay salaries, bills and maintain the facility’s services.
“All we asking the NHS to do, is to pay national rates for nationally-rated services.
“Tragically, they want to carry on shortchanging the team that runs the centre but the real losers will be the people of Corby and beyond.
“If the CCGs are not willing to comply with their legal obligations, we shall reluctantly see our last patient on the evening of 31st March.”
In response, a spokesman for NHS Corby Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Corby Urgent Care Centre is not closing.
“The organisation running the UCC Lakeside Plus have given notice that they wish to withdraw from their contract at the end of March, but it is not their role to decide whether the service comes to an end.
“That decision rests with the CCG as commissioners of healthcare for the people of Corby, and we will ensure that the service continues – with another provider if necessary.
“We are now working urgently to make that happen.
“We have been expecting Lakeside Plus to continue the service until November, as stated in the contract notice issued by the CCG last year.
“We appreciate that this sudden announcement will be a cause of some disquiet for the people of Corby, who are always our primary concern.
“We therefore regret the alarm that is being caused by misleading suggestions that the Urgent Care Centre is to close.”
Corby MP Tom Pursglove tweeted today: “Let me be clear: Corby Urgent Care Centre is vitally important and @NHSCorby and @NHSNene must get their act together and sort this now.”
It comes just a day after the MP mentioned the centre in the House of Commons during a session about A&E waiting times when he described the centre as ‘a class leader.’