The NHS needs a new definition of an urgent care centre and the minimum range of services patients can expect to find there, the Department of Health has said.
A discussion document, Direction of Travel for Urgent Care, says that 'people want services that support them to prevent ill health, are quick and simple to access and that put them in control'.
Overall, urgent care must be more responsive and more efficient in its deployment of resources, making better use of technology to deliver better care and support more people, it says.
While more face-to-face contact should take place outside hospitals, this should be supported by the latest IT. The public should expect a consistent, rigorous assessment of the urgency of their need and an appropriate response 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it says.
An urgent care strategy was promised in the white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say. Comments are invited by 5 January 2007.