Welwyn Garden City Urgent Care Centre – decision made on opening hours

Welwyn Garden City’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC) is to close overnight, due to very low numbers of patients using its services at night for a number of years.
NHS Urgent Care Centre Sign outside building

This decline has been consistent, despite an increasing local population, suggesting that people are using the new alternative sources of help and support now available.

The new closing time will be 10pm. Patients already in the UCC being treated, or waiting to be treated, at 10pm would continue to be cared for appropriately. The UCC will re-open at 8am every morning.

The Governing Body of East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is led by local GPs, made the decision to close the UCC overnight during one of their regular online meetings in public, on Thursday 22 July.  A number of questions submitted by members of the public were answered during the meeting.

The number of overnight visits to urgent and emergency care services in Welwyn Garden City has been low for several years, dating back to when the area was served by the Accident and Emergency department of the former QEII hospital.  
In making their unanimous decision, the Governing Body noted that: 

  • on average, less than one person per hour visits the UCC between 10pm and 8am
  • the UCC has to be staffed by at least two highly skilled nurses at all times, for safety reasons 
  • these staff could be better used to care for more of the area’s seriously unwell patients at the area’s Emergency Department, at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage
  • a wide range of alternative sources of health help and support are available overnight locally to people with an urgent need, including overnight GP appointments and mental health help. These services have been invested in and expanded in recent years.

The proposal to close the Urgent Care Centre overnight was put to the public during an extensive 12 week public engagement campaign in 2019.  Residents and stakeholders were invited to discuss the CCG’s proposals at numerous drop-in sessions and public meetings across the area, with paper and online questionnaires distributed and promoted widely.

Following this, the Governing Body voted to suspend their decision until spring 2020, to find out whether a campaign to raise awareness of the UCC and other out-of-hours services made a difference to the number of overnight visitors. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the decision to be postponed until this week. 

Dr Prag Moodley, Chair of the CCG and a Hertfordshire GP said:

“The information we have about the UCC shows that it is very regularly and consistently used throughout the day, but that overnight, very few people use its services. This means that the highly experienced nursing staff working there don’t have enough patients to treat, and could instead support their very busy colleagues at the Lister. Use of the UCC overnight has been steadily declining for a number of years, as the range of alternative sources of help have increased.

“We want to make sure that all our patients in need have access to excellent urgent care services, with NHS 111 as the gateway to the right care, first time.  Following an assessment by NHS 111 on the phone or online, if you need a doctor’s appointment at night or over the weekend, an appointment will be made for you to see a GP at a clinical base near you, including the one in Welwyn Garden City. Residents who are not well enough to travel, but do not need to go to hospital, can be visited at home by the out-of-hours GP service.

“The NHS 111 service can also put patients in contact with a pharmacist or palliative care expert based in the contact centre for a telephone consultation and can book appointments in the Lister Emergency Department, with an emergency dentist or at a patients’ own GP practice. Mental health  help is also available by calling 111 and selecting the mental health option.”

Following this decision, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust (ENHT), the organisation that runs the UCC, will undertake appropriate consultation with affected staff prior to any change in rotas.  The date from which the UCC will close overnight will be agreed with the Trust and publicised widely throughout the local area. 

Plans will be put in place to mitigate any risk of members of the public arriving at the UCC overnight seeking treatment for minor injuries and illnesses after the unit is closed. 

1.    A comprehensive suite of information and resources about the Urgent Care Centre decision making process is available on this microsite: https://qeiiucc.enhertsccg.nhs.uk
2.    Led by local GPs, East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group plans, designs and buys health services for 597,000 people in Hertfordshire, and monitors the quality and effectiveness of those services. 
3.    Please contact the communications team at East and North Hertfordshire CCG with any media queries on 01707 685140 or enhertsccg.communications@nhs.net 

Share your experiences

Tell us about your experiences

Take just 5 minutes to tell us about your experience of health and/or social care services to help the NHS know what worked, and what could be improved.

Share your experiences