Nurse Walk-In Centres to Relieve Pressure on Emergency Deparments

A Labor Government will set up four free, nurse-led Walk-in Centres to relieve the pressure on hospital emergency departments and provide a new health option for families.

In a new approach to health in NSW, Labor has committed $40 million to establish four Walk-in Centres staffed by nurses. It should employ 45 nurses.

The Centres will be based on those successfully introduced in the United Kingdom in 2000 and were introduced into the ACT in 2010.

One of these Walk-In Centres will be located in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven district.

Under Labor’s Walk-in Centres, experienced nurses will provide free medical advice between 7.30am and 10pm for patients aged two and older with minor injuries and illnesses who would otherwise clog hospital emergency departments.

The Centres will operate seven days a week on a walk-in basis. They will be located within existing community health centres in areas where there is high population demand for health services.

Each year, there are 1.25 million hospital emergency presentations by people seeking treatment for an illness or injury in the lowest two triage categories (triage 4 and 5). Typical cases include sprained ankles, cuts and abrasions – and at some hospitals, they account for a third to almost half of all presentations.

At Shellharbour Hospital, waiting times have blown out with only 65% of patients getting treated within four hours of arrival. Patients are already waiting over an hour longer at Shellharbour Hospital to be seen by a doctor than the average waiting times across the State.

The Nurse Walk-In Centre proposed for the Illawarra region are designed to complement the work of emergency departments and local general practitioners. They will help free up local hospital emergency departments to treat urgent cases for medical attention and reduce waiting times.

A Medicare card will be required for admission to the Walk-in Centre; however patients will not be charged.

“Nurse Walk-in Centres represent a new frontier in NSW health. This is a fresh approach,” Opposition Leader Mr Foley said today.

“It is not always easy to find health services late at night or on the weekend. Now more than ever, our communities need more flexible, convenient options.

“Walk-in Centres will relieve pressure on our State’s emergency departments and complement the work of general practitioners.

“The influx of Triage 4 and Triage 5 category patients is blowing out hospital waiting times under the Baird Government.

“The Abbott and Baird Governments have cut $18 billion from NSW hospitals. Without urgent action by a Foley Labor Government, the pressure on emergency departments will only intensify when the Abbott GP tax is introduced.”

The first Walk-in Centre in Australia opened in May 2010 at Canberra Hospital. In 2011, an independent evaluation confirmed the model to be a safe and effective means to provide primary heath care services. In June 2014, ACT Health relocated the Centre to Tuggeranong, considered an area of need. A second was opened in Belconnen in July 2014.

Over time, the number of patients to the ACT Walk-in Centres has steadily increased. Since July, the two sites have assisted more than 20,000 people with Monday mornings deemed to be the busiest periods.

Read more about Labor’s plan for nurse walk-in centres here.


Key Facts:

  • Labor’s four Walk-in Centres (WiCs) will to give people another free healthcare option for treatment of minor illnesses and injuries.
  • The WiCs will be open 7.30am to10pm daily, and will only accept patients on a walk-in basis. The WiCs will rely on highly skilled nurses with advanced qualifications such as nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses.
  • Two WiCs will be opened on the Central Coast and in Western Sydney, and are designed to complement, not replace, existing services including GPs and hospital emergency departments.
  • Treatment at WiCs will be free and nurses will send treatment summaries to the patient’s GP.
  • The WiC will be publicly funded and its services will be free of charge. It will provide episodic care, and treat patients with the following ailments:
    • Colds, sore throats and flu;
    • Ear wax
    • Cuts and abrasions;
    • Bites and Stings;
    • Skin conditions;
    • Casts;
    • Minor illness such as gastroenteritis; and
    • Minor injuries.
  • Nurses will also be able to provide a “sick/carer certificate” (which differs to medical certificates).
  • To avoid overseas visitors using the free service, the Walk-in Centres will ask for a Medicare card a evidence of eligibility.