• Out of hours and urgent care provider Vocare could set up temporary urgent care centres
  • Services could be provided from portable cabins and articulated lorries
  • Chief executive says it has changed from community benefit society to limited company to attract investment

A company which provides out of hours care across England has said it is considering setting up a network of “pop up” urgent care centres.

Vocare currently provides GP out of hours care, NHS 111 and urgent care services across the Midlands, north Yorkshire, the North East and the South West.

Chief executive John Harrison told HSJ the company was looking at the possibility of providing urgent care from Portakabins and articulated lorries to help acute providers meet demand for increased capacity.

Mr Harrison said: “One of the recommendations to come out of Sir Bruce Keogh’s review [into urgent and emergency care] was to place urgent care centres adjacent to emergency departments.

“We have a number of urgent care centres next to accident and emergency departments across the country. They take on a significant number of patients who would have otherwise ended up in emergency departments.

“Having developed that model, we have seen bits of medical care being delivered through temporary accommodation.

“That can either be through a Portakabin, and we have delivered walk-in centres out of Portakabins before and I have to say the quality is very good.

“We have even seen urgent care centres being delivered on the back of articulated lorries. They come to a car park and then deliver the physical element of an urgent care centre very quickly.”

He added: “Given that a number of emergency departments across the country are struggling to cope with demand, what we wanted to do is look at the possibility of providing what we call ‘pop up’ urgent care centres where they are needed, rather than waiting to have expensive estates works done.”

Mr Harrison said the company is considering establishing these temporary centres in different regions that can then move to meet demand.

“[We could] maybe have one in a particular region that can be moved from location to location as is needed,” he said.

“It could be a regional support mechanism, if it is required to provide extra capacity. It’s something that we haven’t done but it’s something that we are looking at doing, to see if there’s an appetite for that.”

Vocare was established in 2004 as a community benefit society called Northern Doctors Urgent Care to provide out of hours care. The company changed its legal structure last month to become a limited company.

Mr Harrison said the decision to become a company limited by share capital was made by the society’s members in order to attract investment to help it expand.