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Public reminded about A&E changes and urged to use right service

Thursday, 04 February, 2016
Public reminded about A&E changes and urged to use right service

People across Northumberland and North Tyneside are being urged to use the right NHS service for the severity of their symptoms and to keep the new Northumbria hospital in Cramlington free for those who are most seriously ill or injured.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has issued the public message following a high number of inappropriate attendances at the new Northumbria hospital during the busy winter period.

Examples from the past few weeks alone include people accessing the specialist emergency care hospital for ongoing problems such as a bad back, requesting routine blood checks and for minor problems such as sore throats, small cuts, eye problems, period pains and, on one occasion, a splinter in the finger.

Most of these problems are most effectively dealt with in primary care via routine GP appointments, by simply looking after yourself well at home, or if necessary, attending a 24/7 Urgent Care Centre – they do not require a trip to the new Northumbria hospital.

If people do need urgent medical help or advice for minor problems, the trust is advising people to use Urgent Care Centres at Wansbeck, North Tyneside and Hexham general hospitals which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week or to call NHS 111. 

Waiting times at the trust’s Urgent Care Centres are extremely low with an average wait of an hour and a half, meaning people can be seen very promptly if they need urgent care without having to wait behind serious emergencies.  The trust also has Minor Injury Units across Northumberland in Alnwick, Berwick, Blyth and Haltwhistle.

Like the rest of the NHS, the North East is experiencing a very busy winter and high demand for services.  Latest figures from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for January 2016 reveal a 12 per cent increase in overall emergency attendances across Northumberland and North Tyneside compared to January 2015. 

Of the 12,911 emergency attendances at Northumbria Healthcare in January:

·         57 per cent were at the new Northumbria hospital

·         43 per cent were at Urgent Care Centres in Wansbeck, North Tyneside and Hexham general hospitals

·         of the 7,380 people who attended the new Northumbria Hospital:

o   the majority (64 per cent) were brought by emergency blue light ambulance or arrived after emergency GP referral

o   36 per cent – over 2,600 people attended themselves as ‘walk-in’ patients and many could have been more promptly looked after at a local urgent care centre instead

It is this 36 per cent of people that Northumbria Healthcare is urging to think about how they use local NHS services. 

Dr Jane Weatherstone is associate medical director for primary and community care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and a GP who works in North Tyneside Urgent Care Centre. 

She said: “Winter is the busiest time of year for the NHS and some of the cases we’ve seen recently at our new Northumbria Hospital would have been much better dealt with elsewhere, leaving our busy teams free to care for the most serious emergencies. 

“We are continuing to embed our recent A&E changes and appreciate that it has been a major service change for local people and one which is at the forefront of the NHS.  It is important, however, that everyone takes responsibility for using services appropriately.  Our Urgent Care Centres are open 24/7 and we would urge people to attend these walk-in services for minor problems or to call NHS 111. 

“Speaking as a GP, I would also like to remind people that their GP practice should be the first point of contact for most medical problems and ongoing care.  If your problem is not urgent and has been present for a while, your GP will be able to refer you to the right specialist for treatment.”

Despite services having been extremely busy, the new model of emergency care at Northumbria Healthcare is working very well, exceeding the expectations of clinicians who have pioneered the changes.  More patients are being assessed, diagnosed and treated quicker than ever before following their emergency admission to hospital and more are going home sooner and on the road to recovery. 

In addition, thousands of emergency hospital admissions have been saved thanks to prompt decision-making from emergency medicine consultants who are on site 24/7 providing senior clinical input, as well as timely results of tests and scans which are now rapidly available so that consultant specialists can start treatment straight away.

As part of its commitment to continuous quality improvement, the trust is encouraging patients to feedback their experiences of its new model of emergency care as the A&E changes continue to be embedded.   This week a series of drop-in listening events are being held and people are being encouraged to share their views via the trust website by completing a feedback form here.