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‘A good idea in principle’ - health chief welcomes planned A&E pre-booking scheme

PUBLISHED: 18:33 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:41 17 September 2020

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, believes the A&E shake-up is a 'good idea in principle' Picture: ARCHANT/RACHEL EDGE

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, believes the A&E shake-up is a 'good idea in principle' Picture: ARCHANT/RACHEL EDGE

Rachel Edge

Proposals to encourage patients to pre-book A&E appointments by calling 111 is being welcomed by an East Anglian hospital chief.

Nick Hulme has described Department of Health and Social Care plans to revamp the emergency process at hospitals as a “good idea in principle”.

Under the new scheme, patients will call the NHS 111 service and book a place at the emergency department at hospital, with Mr Hulme believing the process would reduce the time people spend in waiting rooms.

Trials for the proposals have already begun in Cornwall, Portsmouth, Warrington and Blackpool and are set to be rolled out to all NHS trusts in England in December, if it proves successful.

People requiring urgent medical attention will still be required to call 999.

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A campaign called ‘Help Us Help You’ will be launched later this year guiding people through the process.

Mr Hulme said the shake-up could save “huge amounts of time” for patients and would help ensure those in critical need of medical attention would be seen to.

However, he also said the service would need to be properly-funded and “responsive” to be efficient.

Mr Hulme said: “This a good idea in principle, and could be excellent if we get the system right and make sure 111 is resourced appropriately.

“We will not turn anyone away who is critically ill or has a situation which requires immediate medical care, but this triage system could actually save huge amounts of time for people who are accessing emergency departments for other reasons.

“If we get the investment right and have a responsive 111 service, then a phone call, a bit of reassurance or booking an appointment which is a timed slot could stop people wasting a trip to emergency departments or turning up and sitting in a waiting room for three hours.

“We also encourage people to look for alternatives to emergency departments, such as a community pharmacist or GP, if they are not in need of urgent care as it is important that we protect the vital service offered by the emergency department so that the people who are the most ill are looked after by the most appropriate staff.”

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