USERS of Swindon’s walk-in health centre are worried about how they will get treatment as it draws down its services in the next few weeks.

Anyone hoping to get immediate treatment at Swindon Health Centre’s clinic will be discouraged from doing so.

They will be advised to make an appointment with their GP or to see a pharmacist for minor ailments as walk-in services in Islington Street will soon cease.

But health bosses don’t want patients showing up at Great Western Hospital instead.

Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group's director of nursing and quality Gill May said: “The survey we conducted of patients at the walk-in centre showed the largest proportion of users were already registered patients of either Carfax Medical Centre or Whalebridge Practice, which are both located in the same building.

“Most of the people accessing care could have been treated at existing primary care services.”

Walk-in centre services will be wound down over the coming weeks, but changes to the way urgent care is delivered – both at Islington Street and the town's hospital – will take until March 2020 to complete.

Ms May said: “The needle exchange which people have come to expect at the centre will continue and there will be facilities for homeless people.

"They will all be able to register as a patients with the Carfax Medical Centre there.”

She added that a blood test clinic will remain open for people to make appointments on weekdays, and there may be a minor wound clinic open as it is required.

Ms May said: “These changes will be phased in over time.”

The upgraded urgent treatment centre at the hospital will see an increased range of services and diagnostic skills available.

But both councillors and patients said they worried that users who needed to be seen quickly would have nowhere to go, or be forced to go to the hospital – adding pressure to services there.

Councillor Bob Wright said: “We are 40 per cent down on the number of GPs that we should have.

“It’s quite simple, if people can’t get a GP appointment, or if it’s for days or weeks in the future and they’re in pain or need to be seen soon, they will go to the walk-in centre.

“That’s why there are so many people using it. The shortage of GPs needs to be be addressed urgently.”

Coun Wright referred to the survey of users of the centre which showed that more than half – 56 per cent – of them drove there.

He said: “If they can’t go to their nearest surgery, they’ve hopped in the car and come into town to go to the walk-in centre.

"In future they’ll do that and go to GWH. And do you have the parking to cope with that? It’s already overstretched.”

Philip Lau from West Swindon said he had attended the centre for precisely that reason.

He said: “I had a skin infection which turned out to be shingles, so it turned out to be quite important.

"I couldn’t get an appointment soon enough, so I came to the walk-in centre, and I waited a while and then was seen.

“That’s why people do it, you can see there are loads of people in there and they all need attention.

"People come in the evenings after work, or if there’s a complication. I think it’s a bad idea if they’re going to close this place. It just smells of budget cuts.”

Another patient, Mark Bailey, said: “I think that’s rubbish they’re going to do this. I really need my meds, and this is the only place I know to get them

“I don’t know what I’d do, but it wouldn’t be good.”