Behind the scenes: What goes on at Norwich’s NHS walk-in centre?
PUBLISHED: 18:16 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:30 18 December 2018
As the county’s NHS gears up for another tough winter, health correspondent GERALDINE SCOTT spent time at Norwich’s walk-in centre to see what clinicians are up against.
The waiting room at the Norwich walk-in centre, on Rouen Road, was full when we arrived.
A little girl had just been sick on the floor and her mother was rushing to clean it up, while others waited patiently to be seen - all looking decidedly sick.
But it was all in a day’s work for Lisa Townshend, an advanced nurse practitioner at the centre, which sees around 5,500 people a month, as staff geared up for another winter which would put pressure on services.
“Christmas Day last year was particularly busy,” she said. “We had an 100pc increase on the last year, over 130 patients. I think a lot of people had that flu.”
But this year she said they had more staff and more slots for patients to be seen, as was demonstrated when she started to call through the waiting list.
First through the door was Neil Ferris.
Mr Ferris, 60 and from Norwich, had a deep cut on his hand he’d suffered while trying to fix a tap for his mother.
“I thought I would turn off the stop tap,” he said. “But this bit of skin here, the tap handle went through it and gouged a chunk of skin out.”
Lisa soon set to work washing the wound - “that is deep,” she said - before discussing with a colleague whether stitches would be needed.
“Sharon used to work in A&E,” she said. “She loves a suture. Some of the nurses here can do stitches.”
But it was decided the infection risk was too high as 24 hours had passed, so Mr Ferris was instead sent away with wound closure strips.
Next in to see the team was Darren Russell, a 45-year-old who was at work building horse boxes when he fell 8ft from a ladder, breaking his leg.
Mr Russell, who is from Essex but was visiting his parents in Norwich, needed his staples removed after an operation on December 3.
“My leg went through the ladder,” he said. “I came down on my shoulders and laid on the floor for a minute. I got up on my feet and it felt like my leg was going to collapse on itself so I thought it’s definitely broken.”
Mr Russell had 30 staples, which were removed with what Ms Townshend said was “basically a normal staple remover”.
“We take them out alternately,” she said. “Sometimes they’re quite difficult to get out because the skin grows over them but these came out lovely.”
The final patient into her consultation room was seven-year-old Emily Coppard - the little girl who had been sick in the waiting room.
Her mother, Kimberley Daly, said she’d picked her up from school with a temperature and thought she had an ear infection.
“When I picked her up she was red and burning up,” Ms Daly, from Norwich, said.
“She said she had an ear ache and when we were in the waiting room she threw up all over the floor.”
After a few checks - the traditional “say ah”, taking of her temperature, and a look in her ear, Ms Townshend said she did think Emily’s ear looked a little red.
“But best guidance is now that ear infections clear up on their own,” she said.
So instead of prescribing antibiotics straight away she wrote a deferred prescription - with instructions only to use it if Emily was still suffering in a few days time.
“It prevents you having to come back,” she said. “And to be honest most people never end up using them but it lets them know we’ve listened to them and they’ve gone away with a solution.”
She said the three patients seen in just the space of around 45 minutes showed the breadth of help they could give at the centre.
The health service’s message is to try and get people to seek the right help and take pressure off hard-pushed services.
She said: “Think about can you self-care, go to a pharmacist, or get telephone advice, call 111 or a GP appointment? And we’re here if needed or A&E only in an emergency. They don’t need an appointment with us and it’s an average waiting time of 45 minutes - obviously a bit longer when we’re busy.”