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Walk-in Centres

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2012

I thank the Minister for his detailed answer. Does he agree that in the future new commissioning groups, such as those that will serve my constituency in Bracknell, might choose not to fund walk-in centres—whether ones already established or those in the future—based on clinical justification terms? I, for one, remain to be convinced—indeed, I am far from convinced—of the long-term financial justification for, or clinical benefit of, walk-in centres.

There is not a nationally mandated programme of walk-in centres; rather, it will be for local commissioners to make decisions based on the evidence and their evaluation, and ensuring that they fulfil their contractual obligations.

Is it not the case that the walk-in centre that opened in Rotherham a few years ago has given communities that are higher on bad health indices access to health care 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Getting rid of it—it was opposed by some local doctors, because it threatened their business—would be a backwards step. Can we expect the new commissioning groups to start commissioning GPs in areas such as mine, which are higher on bad health indices and do not have enough general practitioners?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question, because he outlines the need to reduce health inequalities—something that the party of which he is a member failed to do in government. I can assure him that the Bill, which has now gone through all its parliamentary stages, will place a duty on clinical commissioning groups to seek to reduce health inequalities —something that his Government never did.

Is the Minister aware that when walk-in centres fail—or when any aspect of the national health service fails—it is because of poor management? Does he realise that good managers up and down the country are leaving the national health service? Doctors are not trained as managers. The Institute of Management has said that 43% of our managers are not up to the job, and we are not training our managers in the national health service because they are GPs.

This Government respect the contribution that NHS managers make, and we respect the contribution that the NHS Confederation makes as well. However, we also want to ensure that clinicians are at the heart of commissioning services. They are the people who understand patients most, and they are the people we are giving that responsibility to, because we think that is the way to drive improvement in the NHS.