January 24, 2006

Walk-in health centres to open for UK commuters

LONDON (Reuters) - The first NHS walk-in centres to allow
British commuters to get medical treatment on the way to and
from work will open on Tuesday.

The two centres, located at London Liverpool Street and
Manchester Picadilly train stations, will be open from 7 a.m.
to 7 p.m. and patients will not need to make an appointment.

"The public has told us that they want faster, more
convenient NHS services," Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt
said. "Many banks and supermarkets are now open round the clock
-- the NHS needs to move to match people's expectations for
extended opening hours."

The London and Manchester centres are the first of seven
planned centres. Others will follow at King's Cross and
Victoria train stations and Canary Wharf in London, and at
Newcastle and Leeds stations.

Each center, which is expected to deal with up to 180
patients a day, will offer treatment for minor injuries and
illnesses as well as provide prescriptions and healthcare

"Being able to see a doctor or nurse without having to make
an appointment makes life so much easier for patients and will
have the added advantage of taking pressure of GPs and A&E
(Accident and Emergency) departments," said Michael Summers,
chairman of the Patients Association.

The new centres are amongst a number of initiatives planned
by the government to allow easier access to health care.

Last year Hewitt said she was considering asking doctors to
keep surgeries open longer and at weekends, as well as giving
nurses and pharmacists greater powers to prescribe medicines.