A COUNCILLOR says the staff at the urgent care centres in Widnes and Runcorn are letting the service down.

Health centre opening hours are set to be reduced in an area where staff have been criticised for “lacking compassion.”

Major changes are coming for Urgent Care Centres (UCCs) in Halton as CCG bosses seek to improve the service in line with national NHS standards.

These walk-in clinics are for injuries or illnesses requiring immediate attention, but not serious enough to warrant A&E.

Nationally, however, they are considered to be failing because people find them confusing or don’t know they exist – meaning they go to A&E instead.

The NHS is seeking to improve urgent care provision by transforming UCCs into UTCs – Urgent Treatment Centres.

In Halton, the move is intended to improve the quality of health care in the borough in line with standardised “core” NHS values.

But people have complained about one of the key changes, which will see opening hours reduced from 7am to 10pm, to 8am to 9pm.

At a Heath Policy and Performance Board meeting on Tuesday, a member of Halton CCG said people often felt “fobbed off” when using the two UCCs in the borough, because they get referred elsewhere.

She said a public consultation which  revealed  patients had less than favourable views about staff at the two centres was “concerning” – admitting many already face long waiting hours.

The consultation revealed “several patients” complained about staff lacking compassion – a view echoed by councillor Sandra Baker at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Cllr Baker said: “My gripe with the urgent Care centre, and it’s gone on for a very long time, it’s not what the staff can’t do for you, it’s how they deliver that, how you are told.

“I’ve experienced some really bad stuff about how people have been spoken to. That needs to be addressed and perfected.

“Front of house, if you get that right, the rest of it is going to look a lot better.”

The consultation also revealed people would rather see opening hours extended, with some saying the service should be open 24 hours.

There is no acute hospital in Halton, and the nearest A&E facilities are both morfe than seven miles away, in Warrington and St Helens.

Reducing the UCC hours of operation would mean the services are aligned with opening hours of other primary care services in the borough.

Halton health bosses say this will actually improve care provision in the long run, because it will mean services become more integrated- a key goal for the NHS under the Government’s Five Year Forward View (5YFV) plan.

The committee heard that aligning urgent treatment centre hours with other services in the borough would lead to a more robust workforce provision – making sure staff can be directed to areas with the greatest clinical need at any one time.

Under the new model of care, staff will also be required to undertake comprehensive customer care training to support them in their role.

Other proposed benefits include an improved waiting area with possible new amenities, access to seeing a mental health nurse and treatment slot times allowing people who use the walk-in to book and come back when they are ready to be seen.

The changes are set to be implemented by the end of the year, once the procurement process is complete.

However Mike Amesbury, local Labour MP for Weaver Vale has written to health chiefs opposing plans for reduced hours, saying it would be “problematic” for residents and put greater pressure on A&E.