Why we need to share local urgent treatment centre protocols

Emergency care staff have an opportunity to create more integrated services.

Publication of the document Urgent Treatment Centres presents emergency care staff with a unique opportunity.

Picture: Alamy

Since July, when the government document Urgent Treatment Centres – Principles and Standards set out plans for establishing urgent treatment centres (UTCs), there has been a flurry of activity to implement service enhancement measures. 

That document draws on Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View, published in March, which describes the standards required by sustainability and transformation partnerships, and local commissioners. 

The government’s priority is to improve emergency service performance, facilitate easier access for patients and improve national emergency department performance, bearing in mind that UTC attendances will count towards the four-hour access and waiting times standard.

A core set of standards for UTCs is in place to establish as much commonality as possible, but it is not clear how local variation should be managed.

Accommodating local variation is the responsibility of local teams, who must juggle problems of floor space and staff economics to stream patients through UTCs safely.

Imaginative local models have been devised and I encourage teams to share information about them as soon as possible to ensure clarity about, and enthusiasm for, the changes ahead.

As the government’s documents assure us, patients would benefit from a genuinely integrated urgent care service in which they are directed to the staff with the appropriate expertise.

We have opportunities to integrate primary with urgent care, rationalise services, reduce duplication and devise a more flexible workforce. If we take them, we can create urgent and primary care services that meet the needs of local populations.

About the author


Tricia Scott is principal lecturer and emergency care research lead at the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, and consultant editor of Emergency Nurse