Health officials have defended the decision to remove all of Harrow’s walk-in services, as it confirmed the remaining centres will become appointment-only.

Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) carried out a series of meetings to explain the reasoning behind the closure of walk-in centres across the borough.

It noted the centres are changing to extended access centres, which means patients will have to book an appointment to be seen.

Alexandra Avenue Health Centre experienced the change last year, while Belmont Health Centre is expected to undergo the same process in November.

There are ongoing discussions around the Pinn Medical Centre, but Javina Seghal, chief executive of Harrow CCG, said it will also become appointment-only.

Several Harrow residents and councillors have voiced their concerns about the changes, pointing out that many people “rely” on these services.

But the CCG believes the new system will help address inequality in the borough and will improve patient access and safety.

Ms Seghal added that the decision is part of the “wider direction of travel” mandated by NHS England and is not financially motivated since it will not result in any savings.

She explained that people will be able to ring up a GP surgery – or NHS 111 – to book an appointment at a time that suits them.

Appointments will only be available to those registered with a Harrow GP and Dr Genevieve Small, chairman of Harrow CCG, urged residents who use services in Harrow to make sure they are registered with a doctor in the borough.

Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick, who represents Headstone South ward, said she was “not convinced” by the rationale behind the decision.

She said: “People really value these services and they use them appropriately. They don’t want to spend hours at A&E when they could go the walk-in centres.”

But Pinner South ward councillor Chris Mote said he could understand the need for the changes and believe the people of Harrow will be getting “a better service”.

The CCG explained the triaging associated with the new system will mean patients are sent to the right place, ensuring their safety but also saving time and effort.

It added that there has been a positive response to the changes at Alexandra Avenue and that many people now understand the new system.

It urged councillors to support the decision – something, it reiterated, has come from the very top – and get behind the communication drive to inform the public.