Ealing Urgent Care Centre (UCC) service provider Care UK is under-fire from the Ealing Save Our NHS campaign following an ITV documentary raising concerns about standards at the centre.
Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Care UK were called to a council scrutiny meeting on Wednesday to respond to allegations raised in the programme, which was aired in July.
The documentary expressed worries over a lack of medicines and stock during traditional out-of-hours periods and staff levels and training, among other issues.
Eve Turner, Secretary of Ealing Save Our NHS Campaign, criticised Care UK’s running of the centre and Ealing CCG’s “inability or unwillingness to address the issue”.
She said: “Care UK is running at a loss in Ealing and consequently under pressure to cut costs. We’re not surprised at reports that they are cutting corners. If NHS services are run by private companies, then they are inevitably run for profit."
Oliver New, also from Ealing Save Our NHS Campaign, said he worried private companies weren't able to fully integrate with the NHS and GPs at all times, creating bureaucracy incompatible with holistic health treatment.
He said: “We often hear worrying reports about the Urgent Care Centre. It seems it simply can’t cope at times and doctors are sometimes presented with problems for which they are not really trained.”
The Ealing CCG pledged to improve the service and have commissioned an independent review to look at the service provided at Ealing UCC.
They will act on any findings received from the report, having already agreed to fund an additional GP over the winter period.
“Ealing CCG took the allegations about Ealing Urgent Care Centre very seriously and as soon as Care UK made us aware of the undercover filming, we carried out an urgent clinical visit and can reassure local people that this is a safe service that they should continue to use,” said Dr Raj Chandok, vice-chairman of Ealing CCG.
“In the meantime, we are working with Care UK on an action plan to improve the service.”
Healthwatch Ealing invited patients, via a survey on its website, to comment on their experience of the Ealing Urgent Care Centre.
The survey revealed that 50% of participants did not believe all the medications they needed were available, while 35.71% believed they were available.
50% said they also believed Ealing UCC was not appropriately staffed, 20% answered "yes, definitely" and another 20% responded "yes, to some extent".
A spokesman for Care UK said: “We were pleased to be given the opportunity to talk to the scrutiny committee about the service and its portrayal on a recent documentary.
"The team at Ealing Urgent Care Centre works incredibly hard to provide caring, safe and effective services to local people.
“As members of the committee heard, we challenged many points that the documentary made about the service.
"At the time of the broadcast, representatives of the CCG visited the service and found no immediate cause for concern and said publicly that patients can continue to use the service with confidence.
“Since then, we have welcomed the independent clinical review which is currently underway and will be happy to discuss with the CCG any findings that could improve the service further.”
Councillor Hitesh Tailor, Ealing Council cabinet member for health and adults’ services, said the council continuously strives for the best possible healthcare for Ealing residents.
He said: “The council rightly used its powers to scrutinise the serious issues raised in the disturbing TV documentary about the local Urgent Care Centre.
"I welcome the CCG’s independent review of healthcare services and will be examining their report closely.”
Shadow portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, Councillor Joy Morrissey, added she shared Cllr Tailor's viewpoint and stressed she was keen to ensure the promise of improvements was kept.
She said: “I welcome the public assurance from Ealing CCG that they will commit to improving standards of care at Ealing Urgent Care Centre.
“This is such a vital service to the community and Ealing should have the quality healthcare it needs.”
Ealing CCG encourages local people to recount their experience of the urgent care centre and would ask them to email email@example.com or call 020 8280 8080 to do so.