One in five slots at a new appointment-only surgery are not being taken up, months after it changed from a popular walk-in centre.

But Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) insists that the early signs around the new system at Alexandra Avenue Health Centre are positive.

It became an appointment-only GP access centre on November 1 as part of NHS England’s plan to improve access to primary care.

Despite concerns raised by local politicians – including Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas – and a 2,200-strong online petition launched by community group #Fixit Harrow, the CCG is confident it was the right move.

“It’s not perfect and it’s all part of our learning – it’s constantly being monitored and reviewed,” said Harrow CCG’s Tom Elrick.

“This is a chance for people to have more access to general practice, which is the gold standard of care.

“It provides a service to the community and we want to make it as slick as possible for patients.”

In the first two months, around 80 per cent of appointments were taken up. This figure jumped to around 96 per cent in January as winter pressures kicked in.

Mr Elrick noted that the service experienced a drop-off at the weekends and said the CCG would focus on addressing this in the coming months.

Positive patient feedback presented in a CCG report included the opportunity to see doctors at weekends and until 8pm on weekdays, and the shorter queues compared to when it was a walk-in centre.

However, there were some concerns around the overall process of booking an appointment, which is done through Harrow GPs or by calling 111.

Mr Elrick explained that the borough’s remaining walk-in centres, in Belmont and Pinner, have not suffered increased pressures as a result of the change.

He added that nobody who has walked in since November 1 has been turned away – aside from a man who threatened staff with a knife – without being assessed for urgent care.

And there has been collaborative work with CCGs in Ealing and Hillingdon to explain the changes to patients in those boroughs who, if they are not registered with a Harrow GP, can no longer use the Alex.