Ipswich: Urgent care hubs will help relieve pressure on over-stretched hospital A&E departments
12:56 26 March 2014
A new ‘Urgent Care Hub’ looks set to be created at Ipswich Hospital - treating all but the most serious emergencies instead of the A&E department.
It is hoped the creation of the new unit, which could happen in 2015, will relieve pressure on the stretched A&E department, and end patient confusion about where they should go in an emergency.
Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) yesterday approved a draft model to create an urgent care hub within the A&E department at Ipswich Hospital.
A similar unit could be created at West Suffolk Hospital, though that has not yet been discussed.
The move would see all primary care, the treatment of injuries other than major trauma and diagnostic services provided at the hub while allowing the hospital’s A&E department to focus on genuine emergencies.
Dr Imran Qureshi, chairman of the clinical executive at Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “It’s really about redesigning the whole of the urgent care system and protecting services.
“It will become a truly integrated urgent care centre where all the services are delivered from one place.
“In the past people in Ipswich have had the minor injury unit at Riverside Clinic which was set up to help ease some of the pressure on A&E but in practice it actually increased system demand so when we took it out of the system, the extra demand went straight to the A&E departments.”
It is proposed the hub will see all unannounced arrivals to the hospital and only pass on the most severe cases to A&E staff.
Dr Qureshi said it is imperative services are put in place to support the core healthcare services.
“These hubs will make sure the right skills are there at the right point to access the services,” he added. “For example a child with a fever in most cases has a cold of cough which is viral. They would be given advice by a GP.
“While if they turned up at A&E, those children are often admitted and subjected to further tests unnecessarily.
“If you can get the child seen by the right person it will help them and reduce the pressures on the service.”
While the proposal is in its early stages, it is hoped the urgent care hub at Ipswich Hospital would be functional by late 2015 to tie in with contracts, including the 111 and out-of-hours services, which are up for renewal.
Dr Qureshi said: “We have the 111 system and we are trying to make that work with this hub system.
“When patients turn up and their need is urgent, you can provide them with triage. It’s important the system doesn’t treat people inappropriately.
“The A&E staff will work in the department. It’s a case of the right skill set being critical for this.
“If you lose an A&E department, you lose a core service and this is a way of protecting these services and keep them because they are a valuable service that needs to be utilised.”
Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said the model has been worked up by the CCGs in partnership with stakeholders including the health watchdog.
“We are pleased that we have had the opportunity to influence the development of the model and ensure that the views and experiences of patients and the public have been integral to the process,” she added. “The next stage will be about engaging patients and the public to ensure that the plans are delivered with patients at the centre.
“We therefore encourage anybody using our urgent care services to share their experience with us to inform this work.”