A THIRD of patients seeking help at Blackburn’s Urgent Care Centre could be sent to their GP or pharmacy after research found many attendees should not be there.

The changes follow an audit of attendance at Royal Blackburn Hospital and Burnley General Hospital’s UCCs which found that up to 50 patients a day did not need hospital treatment.

The scheme is being run for a six-month trial at Blackburn and if it is found to be successful, will be rolled out to Burnley.

Each patient who visits the UCC costs the NHS a minimum of £54, even if they do not receive any treatment, leading the NHS in East Lancashire to overspend £7million on unplanned care last year.

From today, residents who go to the centre unnecessarily will be redirected back to another health professional such as their GP, pharmacist or dentist, or given advice about how to look after themselves.

Patients will be assessed on arrival by a senior nurse using a computer system that helps determine how urgent a request for clinician attention is and what priority to assign to them.

Dr Charles Thomson, ELHT Emergency Department Consultant, said: “Patients may think that hospital is the best place for them, but that is not always the case. Urgent Care Services need to be reserved for urgent illnesses and injuries that cannot be treated elsewhere.

“Colds and grazes are not urgent.”

Dr Zaki Patel, a Blackburn GP, said: “Some patients visit the Urgent Care Centre repeatedly.

“We had one patient who attended 40 times with the same symptoms, which didn’t need treatment.

“And another who visited nine times in a single week with four different complaints and left before treatment.

“In both cases, these patients could have received assessment and reassurance from their GP or the NHS 111 helpline.”

The scheme has been jointly developed by ELHT and both the East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Dr David White, a Burnley GP, said: “This is not about making savings, but about spending wisely and making sure vital resources are available for those who need them most, while at the same time making sure all patients get the treatment they need in the right place.”