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Concern over long waits as 'teething problems' reported at hospital unit

The new urgent treatment centre opened on October 1, next to Colchester Hospital's A&E department Picture: East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

The new urgent treatment centre opened on October 1, next to Colchester Hospital's A&E department Picture: East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

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Hospital patients have taken to social media to air their views on "teething problems" at the new urgent treatment centre next to Colchester Hospital's A&E.

Long waits and queues were reported at the unit over the weekend, during what bosses called an "unusual spike of activity".

Waiting times of up to seven hours were reported by staff on Friday night, patients claimed, and booking system problems meant people had to triage themselves.

The new 24/7 centre, which opened on October 1, is designed to ease pressure on A&E and takes over the treatment for common ailments like sprains, cuts and grazes, fever and vomiting.

Now hospital chiefs have apologised to patients for the extended waits, and said more than 8,000 people have been treated across both departments over the past three weeks.

Writing on Twitter, Stuart Johnson said: "New urgent treatment centre in Colchester not working well. People queuing 30+ minutes to be booked in and waiting to be seen.

"It did improve after an hour, total delay wasn't too bad but booking in was chaotic. Only one GP on duty. Waiting times were apparently seven hours on Friday.

He added: "It ended up with patients in the booking-in queue triaging each other to work out who should go to the front of the queue."

MORE: Hospital opens brand new urgent treatment centre

Meanwhile Diane Appleby, joining another debate about the new centre on Facebook, had positive things to say.

She said: "We went to the new unit, my husband spoke to a receptionist and I was fast-tracked within minutes. I cannot praise all the staff involved in my care highly enough for their kindness, care and efficiency."

Yet one patient, who wanted to remain anonymous, was at the centre this weekend and added: "It felt very disorganised, although the staff were very caring.

"The total delay to be seen by a doctor wasn't bad, but there was only one on duty."

'Teething problems'

Alison Power is director of operations at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT).

She said: "The new urgent treatment centre, which is adjacent to the emergency department opened on the 1 October 2019. In our initial 21 days, we have cared and supported 8113 people within both departments.

"As with all new developments, we are continuing to work closely with the teams to respond positively to any changes in activity particularly during peak times. For example, last Friday evening, we saw an unusual spike of activity, however teams responded quickly allocating more staff to ensure people were seen and treated or seen and signposted to the right service as quickly as possible.

"We are also listening daily to patient feedback and responding to helpful suggestions on how to make the booking process quicker and more streamlined. This should significantly ease the pressure felt at the busiest times of the day or week.

"We apologise to any patients and their families if they have experienced an extended period waiting for treatment in our department due to teething problems."

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