Talks are under way to set up a new urgent care centre at Sheffield’s accident and emergency ward to tackle ‘immense pressure’ being put on the unit by high numbers of patients.
The planned centre would be established at the Northern General Hospital, treating patients with minor illnesses and non-critical injuries, freeing up medics to treat genuine emergency cases.
The move comes after Sheffield’s A&E ward missed the Government’s target to treat 95 per cent of emergency patients within four hours.
Last year just over 93 per cent of patients were seen at accident and emergency in Sheffield within four hours, while from January to April the figure fell to 90 per cent.
Many other A&E units around the country are struggling, too.
A report published this week by the King’s Fund think tank found waiting times have hit a nine-year high nationally.
Some 313,000 patients spent four hours or longer in A&E between January and March.
The surge in admissions is being blamed on a variety of reasons, including winter bugs, budget cuts, problems with the new NHS 111 telephone helpline and public mistrust of private out-of-hours GP services.
Sheffield’s urgent care centre would be similar to a triage service, enabling doctors to ‘stream’ patients more effectively depending on the severity of their injury or illness.
A full public consultation will be launched if the plans are agreed.
It is understood that existing emergency facilities will not be affected, and the GP walk-in centre on Broad Lane would remain open.
As well as talks over the urgent care centre, last month a refurbished clinical decisions unit opened at the Northern General, the first part of a £4million expansion of the A&E.
Idris Griffiths, chief operating officer for Sheffield’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Elsewhere in the country some health communities have developed urgent care centres adjacent to A&E. We are working with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to assess whether this type of service could benefit Sheffield. However, this is one of a range of options that we are still discussing at the moment. In the meantime we will continue to look at how best to organise urgent care across the city.”
Prof Hilary Chapman, chief nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, added: “Our staff have worked extremely hard to cope with the rise in demand and have continued to deliver quality care. We are also working with partners across the city to explore how emergency care services could be best delivered for the future.”