COMMERCIAL: An urgent care centre will open at South Tyneside General Hospital next year, under plans drawn up by a clinical commissioning group.

South Tyneside CCG said the round the clock “hub” would divert patients away from accident and emergency.

It would provide non-emergency medical care and include services such as GP out of hours, community pharmacies and the 111 telephone service. Patients would be triaged by a clinician before being referred.

The CCG will consider the procurement process for selecting the provider following a public consultation. It has estimated that the hub could save around £2m, which could be reinvested back into the health economy.

The plan coincides with the closure of Jarrow GP Practice and Walk-in Centre, which faced some local opposition including from local MP Stephen Hepburn. The CCG is not renewing the centre’s contract when it expires in May 2015.

CCG chief officer David Hambleton said South Tyneside’s current urgent healthcare arrangement was “not helping patients understand where to go”.

It also failed to “sign post [patients] to the right service for the right level of care or provide an obvious and easily accessible alternative to A&E”, he said.

“For the majority of patients [who go to A&E] it would be better to go to a different health service but many may be unaware of the different options available to them.

“We all need to do something about this.”