HEALTH chiefs have pledged to continue offering a walk-in "option" for Bury.

It comes as the local NHS commissioner shed some light on how it plans to save millions of pounds in urgent care services from next year.

Dr Jeff Schryer, chairman of Bury's clinical commissioning group (CCG), said that the focus of the spending review is to simplify access points.

He said: "People are confused about where to go. People absolutely want us to provide a walk-in option, so we are committed to providing a walk-in option.

“It's about finding some way of helping people to be directed to the right place. A key part of this is helping people understand what the offers are."

As part of the review of urgent care services, the CCG called up all GP practices across the borough to book an appointment.

It found that in every case there was an appointment available on the same day.

Dr Schryer told the council's health scrutiny committee that while patients may not be able to see their doctor of choice on the day, there was a same-day GP appointment available at every practice.

But Moorside councillor Sandra Walmsley countered claims that there was a problem with "perception" among patients, saying that it is still difficult to book a "routine" appointment in such a short timeframe.

She said: “Most people in Bury will ring their GP for a routine appointment and wait for more than a week, sometimes two weeks.

"The perception problem is then about the individual understanding the difference between routine and non-routine appointments. We're relying on members of the public to make that judgment. It needs looking at."

Dr Schryer said that receptionists have been told how to communicate this message to patients.

He said: "You only need urgent care when you need urgent care. So, if you had a rotten experience two to five years ago, that’s how your experience will be remembered and I feel like we need to help people understand that we are in a very different world now when it comes to GP practise."

Dr Schryer told the committee that, with the exception of one, appointments for all GP practices in Bury can be booked online as long as patients are registered.

However, the new NHS mobile application, which was launched nationally last year, is not compatible with current GP systems in Bury, Dr Schryer revealed.

He said: "We are working at that furiously."

His comments come after months of uncertainty over the future of walk-in centres in Bury and Prestwich.

Staff at Moorgate Primary Care Centre told the Bury Times that the walk-in centre had almost closed on some weekends as an emergency measure because there were not enough nurses available.

They claimed that staffing shortages were part of a deliberate attempt to justify closing the walk-in centres. But Steve Taylor, Bury and Rochdale Care Organisation chief officer, refuted these claims.

Dr Schryer told councillors that the CCG's strategy of simplifying access points to health care services would also help improve A&E performance at Fairfield General Hospital.

He said that the hospital in Rochdale Old Road was doing relatively well but Greater Manchester had been under “tremendous pressure” as a whole.

The CCG intends to start speaking with members of the public about the findings of its urgent care review in the coming weeks and a public consultation is expected to take place soon after.