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Privately run NHS walk-in clinics open

Plan to give commuters more convenient access to basic health treatment gets underway

The government has officially opened two free commuter walk-in centres, as part of a nationwide plan to make it more convenient for workers in major UK cities to receive basic treatments. The centres will be run by private health firms under the NHS banner.

Opening hours are from 7am until 7pm - longer than normal GP opening times. Clients will be able to seek free advice and treatments for minor injuries and illnesses, from practice GPs and nurses, without a prior appointment. It is hoped that the convenience of the new centres will enable local workers and commuters to seek medical advice before or after work.

Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, opened one of the clinics near London's Liverpool Street station. Health minister, Liam Byrne, opened the second in Manchester's Piccadilly station.

Ms Hewitt said: ìMany banks and supermarkets are now open round the clock - the NHS needs to move to match people's expectations for extended opening hours.î

More centres will be opened at Canary Wharf, King's Cross, and Victoria in London. Leeds City station and Newcastle Central station will also receive similar centres, as part of a £50 million improvement of services available outside hospitals. Since their introduction in 2000, 66 walk-in centres across the UK have treated five million patients.

ìBeing able to see a doctor or nurse without having to make an appointment makes life so much easier for patients.î said Michael Summers, chair of the Patients Association. ìThe Patients Association is pleased to support the opening of these two new centres, which will be of greater value to patients.î

General Medical Clinics will run the Liverpool Street Centre, while Atos Origin run the Manchester Clinic. Last year, Hewitt said she was considering extending doctors' daily and weekend working hours - which could be more likely now, in the face of new, private competition.

30th September 2008

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