Temporary care centre set up at Norwich hospital to relieve A&E pressure

The N&N's new urgent care centre attached to the accident & emergency unit. Photo: Bill Smith The N&N's new urgent care centre attached to the accident & emergency unit. Photo: Bill Smith

Mark Shields mark.shields@archant.co.uk
Saturday, January 25, 2014
11:48 AM

A temporary treatment centre at Norfolk’s biggest hospital is facing its first full weekend test as health bosses look for a way to relieve pressure on its busy accident and emergency department.

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Reception area of the N&N's new urgent care centre attached to the accident & emergency unit. Photo: Bill SmithReception area of the N&N's new urgent care centre attached to the accident & emergency unit. Photo: Bill Smith

A temporary treatment centre at Norfolk’s biggest hospital is facing its first full weekend test as health bosses look for a way to relieve pressure on its busy accident and emergency department.

The urgent care centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has been set up to treat patients attending A&E with minor illnesses or injuries, with the aim of freeing up specialist doctors to deal with those with more serious conditions.

The custom-built centre, formed of three transporters parked at the doors of A&E, opened on Monday and will be there until March 31 for a 10-week trial, staffed by GPs, nurses and therapists from Norfolk’s community healthcare trust, mental health nurses and social workers.

Early indications from this week and two trials in November and December show that around one in five A&E patients has been referred to the temporary centre – around 20 a day – which A&E managers say has been enough to create a noticeable difference in acute care.

Chris Carney, associate medical director of Norfolk community health & care trust, at the N&N's new urgent care centre attached to the accident & emergency unit. Photo: Bill SmithChris Carney, associate medical director of Norfolk community health & care trust, at the N&N's new urgent care centre attached to the accident & emergency unit. Photo: Bill Smith

Care staff are also on hand to arrange community support for those who can return home quickly.

Chris Carney, associate medical director of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, said the emphasis of the scheme was on collaboration and co-operation.

“This innovative unit brings our staff closer to their hospital-based colleagues and shows how health and care teams can work together to provide the best care for patients, using each organisation’s best talents,” he said.

“This will also help to take pressure off the hospital, so their staff can focus on looking after people who really need their support – those who are seriously ill or injured.”

He said if it proved a success, the facility could return next year, or be included in the rebuilding plans for A&E at the N&N.

The hospital and East of England Ambulance Service Trust have been under pressure to remedy slow turnaround times, which has led to ambulances lining up at the doors to discharge patients to A&E.

Last March, the EDP reported on a night when all of the Norwich area’s 17 ambulances were caught in a queue at the N&N. On April 1, concerned paramedics set up a tent outside the hospital in case patients needed urgent care as their ambulances waited in a three-hour queue.

The new centre is part of a £1.6m investment from NHS England, and has been commissioned by three Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Groups, as part of Project Domino, which aims to alleviate pressure on urgent healthcare services.

A&E matron Kirsty Walker said: “This is one of many initiatives to see what we can do to relieve pressure on A&E departments across the country. In the trials, we were seeing about 20pc of patients being sent to a primary care doctor – and that did make a difference to A&E.”

The centre is open seven days a week, from 10am to 10pm.

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