Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Monitor to investigate the closure of NHS walk-in centres

Monitor is launching a review to understand why NHS walk-in centres are closing and if this is in the best interests of patients.


The health regulator will examine to what extent the closure of walk-in centres has limited people’s ability to choose where and when they access routine or urgent primary health care services without appointment.


There are 369 urgent care services currently registered with the Care Quality Commission, which includes NHS walk-in centres and a range of other primary care services. When they were first commissioned, walk-in centres were required to be open at least from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.


Responsibility for commissioning walk-in centres was originally in the hands of primary care trusts (PCTs). As current contracts expire, NHS England will review the case for re-commissioning services for registered patients. It is now up to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to decide whether to re-commission services for non-registered patients, such as urgent care and out of hours services.


As part of its review, Monitor wants to hear from patients, past and current providers of walk-in centres, GPs, commissioners and other stakeholders about the impact of walk-in centre closures.


Catherine Davies, Executive Director of Co-operation and Competition at Monitor, said: “It is in the interests of patients to find out why walk-in centres are closing and whether the closures are affecting patient choice and competition.


“Walk-in centres are very popular with patients and the potential impact of such closures at a local and national level needs to be better understood.”


This is not an investigation by Monitor under its formal enforcement powers, it is a review to improve its understanding of why walk-in centres are closing and the potential impact on patient choice and competition.

Notes to Editors


  • Under the Equitable Access Programme in 2008/9 each primary care trust was required to commission at least one GP-led health centre to provide primary care services to both registered and unregistered patients without an appointment.


  • Around 150 GP-led health care centres were commissioned in England as a result of the Equitable Access Programme.


  • In February 2011 the government explained to PCTs and Strategic Health Authorities that CCGs would not take on contractual responsibility for walk-in centres although they would be responsible for urgent primary care.


  • NHS England took over responsibility for the majority of existing walk-in centre contracts in April 2013. As contracts expire NHS England will evaluate the case for re-commissioning services for registered patients but it is up to CCGs to decide whether to re-commission services for non-registered patients, such as urgent care and Out of Hours services.


  • PCTs commissioned walk-in centres from a range of providers, including GP-led enterprises and the independent sector, through a competitive procurement process typically on five year contracts.


  • Monitor is the sector regulator of NHS-funded health care services. Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 its main duty is to protect and promote the interests of people who use health care services. Information about Monitor’s new role can be found here.


  • The terms of reference for Monitor’s review are available here.


  • Initial submissions should be sent to by 5pm on 28th June 2013.


  • Monitor will publish a report setting out its preliminary findings, with the aim of issuing a report setting out its final conclusions later in the year. 


  • This review is a separate exercise from its review of general practice and associated services which we signalled in the Fair Playing Field Review.


  • This review is also separate from work that the NHS England is carrying out, led by Sir Bruce Keogh, to review urgent and emergency care services in England.
  • Monitor is now on Twitter - follow us @MonitorUpdate.

Episode 13 | The Digital Divide