AN URGENT care service set up to ease pressure on Worcester's accident and emergency department has attracted fewer patients than expected, health chiefs say.

Jeff Crawshaw, head of human resources at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, has admitted the doctor-led Urgent Care Centre - UCC - set up last October at Kidderminster Hospital, has made less of a difference to the accident and emergency at Worcestershire Royal Hospital than he hoped.

The service, run by two staff grade accident and emergency doctors, which costs £100,000 a year to run, was designed to ease pressure on busy accident and emergency departments like the one at the Royal in Newtown Road.

At a Worcestershire County Council health overview and scrutiny meeting, however, Mr Crawshaw admitted the UCC had only treated around 600 patients since October, when the pilot was launched.

He said: "I have to keep an eye on the costs and patient numbers have been quite modest. If you look at the hard economics of this, someone might say this does not stack up."

The aim was that the UCC reinforced the work of the Minor Injuries Unit, set up in 2000 at Kidderminster Hospital, which treats around 23,000 patients each year.

The Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS board will consider a report on the work of the USC pilot at its next meeting, on Thursday, February 28.

Liberal county councillor, Fran Oborski, one of the committee members, said: "With 600 patients in the first four months, the general public don't realise the extent of the doctor service they have got there.

"It's a smaller take-up than we might have hoped for. I just wonder if there's enough publicity."

Mr Crawshaw said there could be a mail drop to raise awareness of the service if it was to remain permanent.

The service so far means around seven patients a day who would normally be seen at Worcestershire Royal are being seen at the UCC.

Conservative councillor, Paul Tuthill, suggested the doctor based at the UCC, who currently works 9am to 5pm, should work a split shift to make the service more accessible.

He added: "Do you think that's the right sort of hours? Maybe it would be better for the doctor to work between 7am and 11am, go and play golf. and come back in the evening."

George Wilson, a retired GP from Upton-upon-Severn, who was representing the Worcestershire Local Medical Committee, said he felt the UCC was an "enormous waste of human resources".

Do you want the Urgent Care Centre to continue? E-mail with your views.