Peter Franzen OBE worked as a health provider non-executive director for 10 years after retiring as editor of the EDP, and argues to keep the Norwich Walk-In Centre open

The next time you are waiting on the phone trying to get a face-to-face appointment with your GP, why not log on to your computer and fill-in the 'consultation' over plans to close the Walk-In Centre in Rouen Road, Norwich?

Apart from the over-stretched Norfolk hospitals, it is the only walk-in facility where you can get medical help face-to-face from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week and on a Bank Holidays.

Even for those who live outside the city it is a lifeline when someone is unwell.

The Norwich Walk-In Centre provides a number of services, including treatment of minor illness and injury, to anyone who needs it.

You do not need to be registered with the NHS to get help.

You don’t need an appointment and it currently provides 5,666 appointments per month.

The GP practice there is open from 8am to 8pm every day including public holidays.

Its team of six GPs, two nurse practitioners, two nurses, three-strong healthcare team, two pharmacists, four-strong prescription team, practice management, and admin/reception staff support 10,300 registered patients.

The facility also hosts the Vulnerable Adult Service supporting people who are socially excluded, live chaotic lives, are at risk of poor health, and may not have up-to-date patient records, which can all make it difficult for them to access health care.

NHS Norfolk and Waveney says the current contract with all three services runs out on March 31, 2024, and it wants to get people’s views on the proposed changes, and how the three services are used.

But having read through the consultation document, it appears “loaded” towards closure, with total lack of clarity about what any of the alternatives will deliver.

The three options are:

1. No change
NHS Norfolk and Waveney would re-purchase all three services meaning the locations and help offered would not change and the Walk-In Centre would remain.

But it says this would not help GP practices to improve their resilience, would not improve access to services, and is not value-for-money as it duplicates other services.

They contend: “This is not the most appropriate option.”

2. Close the walk-in centre, and keep the Vulnerable Adult Service and Rouen Road GP practice
NHS Norfolk and Waveney says this would ensure two services continue but there would be no additional local services to replace the Walk-In Centre and it would mean people could struggle to get help if they cannot get timely care from their GP practice.

Once again: “We do not think this is the most appropriate option.”

3. Keep the Vulnerable Adult Service and Rouen Road GP practice, and offer the Walk-In Centre care in a different way
NHS Norfolk and Waveney says the resources from the Walk-In Centre would be redistributed to other GPs across Norwich to improve access to healthcare services, enable other practices to join up to services, and re-distribute resources to address the increased pressure from planned housing growth.

“We believe this is the most appropriate option.”

It’s pretty clear from this that NHS Norfolk and Waveney want the Walk-In Centre gone.

They say that keeping the centre open is "not in line with NHS policy" and that "the model of care no longer provides the best value for money".

However, they also acknowledge that it provides support for GP practices experiencing capacity issues.

Worryingly, the authority admits it has not finalised the details of how the favoured option will work in practice. There are fine words about GPs working together and “supporting resilience in GP practices”. But what does that really mean? 

Where will patients get help if the Walk-In Centre is not operating?

Daily, people are struggling to access GP services, and the Rouen Road centre offers a health and care safety net for those who cannot get help any other way.

It is likely that closure will just increase pressure on the A&E service and increase the challenges the people of Norfolk face in accessing care.

Just how much money it will “save” and what the redistribution of cash will provide is currently a mystery to the general public because the “consultation” is not that transparent.

NHS England in its guidance on urgent care reminds health providers that the patient always comes first, and as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan the NHS’ aim is to ensure patients get the care they need, fast, and to relieve pressure on A&E departments. 

It leaves me with the impression that this is more about money than the patient and to close the only Walk-In Centre in Norfolk should be strongly opposed.

You can find the consultation paper (closes March 26) at: