MP pays visit as Blackpool urgent treatment centre celebrates 20th birthday

Blackpool’s urgent treatment centre had a visit from its local MP shortly after it celebrated its 20th birthday.

When it first opened on 21 November 2001, the ‘walk-in centre’ in the old Natwest Bank in Talbot Road was the first of its kind in Lancashire and the biggest in the UK.

And 20 years on the service – now known as the Whitegate Urgent Treatment Centre – has gone from strength to strength, boasting a much more varied staff mix and operating from the state-of-the-art health centre in Whitegate Drive.

Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South, paid a visit to the centre as he looked to get a better understanding of how the service operates.

He said: “I was very impressed by my recent visit to Whitegate Drive Health Centre. I was taken on a tour by the clinical lead Dr Neil Hartley-Smith, who showed me the activities of this vital facility.

“I would like to thank all of the staff for the brilliant work they have done under significant pressure during the pandemic.”

When the Blackpool walk-in centre opened it was run by 11 nurses who on day one saw just 32 patients. Established as an alternative to visiting a GP and with the aim of easing pressure on A&E services, the centre went from strength to strength and later relocated to Whitegate Drive, where the team joined up with the GP-led out of hours service.

Now, as well as nurses, the service boasts GPs, nurse practitioners and prescribers who can help people with a huge variety of health complaints and injuries.

Dr Neil Hartley-Smith, a GP with the service and clinical director for NHS Blackpool and NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), was on hand to show Mr Benton around.

He said: “Scott told me he was surprised to hear about the variety of conditions that could be dealt with at the centre. He had assumed, as many do, that it was for people needing GP advice but he was fascinated to learn about the on-site x-ray machines and see the rooms dedicated to dealing with breaks and sprains.

“He also expressed his concern over staffing levels and was reassured by the way staff were being managed to ensure a safe level of care at all times.

“It was great to welcome Scott to the urgent treatment centre and hopefully by increasing his understanding of the services on offer he will be even better equipped to support his constituents when they raise concerns in the future.”

The Fylde Coast urgent treatment centres, which can also be found at Fleetwood Health and Wellbeing Centre in Dock Street, Fleetwood, are open from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week, and see hundreds of patients on a daily basis.

Providing an alternative to A&E for urgent but non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, they offer appointments that can be booked by calling 111 or visiting, as well as being available for walk-in appointments.