Concern at '˜inappropriate' use of new emergency care hospital

People are being urged to keep the new Northumbria hospital in Cramlington free for those who are most seriously ill or injured.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10 February, 2016, 15:11
Staff at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has issued the public message following a high number of inappropriate attendances at the hospital during the busy winter period.

Examples from the past few weeks alone include people accessing the specialist emergency care hospital for ongoing problems such as a bad back, requesting routine blood checks and for minor problems such as sore throats, small cuts, eye problems, period pains and, on one occasion, a splinter in the finger.

Most of these problems are most effectively dealt with in primary care via routine GP appointments, by simply looking after yourself well at home or, if necessary, attending a 24/7 urgent care centre – they do not require a trip to the new hospital.

If people do need urgent medical help or advice for minor problems, the trust is advising people to use urgent care centres at Wansbeck, North Tyneside and Hexham general hospitals which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or to call NHS 111.

Waiting times at the trust’s urgent care centres are extremely low with an average wait of an hour-and-a-half, meaning people can be seen very promptly if they need urgent care without having to wait behind serious emergencies. The trust also has minor injury units in Berwick and Alnwick.

Like the rest of the NHS, the North East is experiencing a very busy winter and high demand for services. Latest figures from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for January 2016 reveal a 12 per cent increase in overall emergency attendances across Northumberland and North Tyneside compared to January 2015.

Of the 12,911 emergency attendances at Northumbria Healthcare in January, 57 per cent were at the new Northumbria hospital.

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Of the 7,380 people who attended the new hospital, 64 per cent) were brought by emergency blue light ambulance or arrived after emergency GP referral

However, 36 per cent – over 2,600 people - attended themselves as ‘walk-in’ patients and many could have been more promptly looked after at a local urgent care centre instead.

It is this 36 per cent of people that Northumbria Healthcare is urging to think about how they use local NHS services.

Dr Jane Weatherstone, associate medical director for primary and community care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Winter is the busiest time of year for the NHS and some of the cases we’ve seen recently at our new Northumbria hospital would have been much better dealt with elsewhere, leaving our busy teams free to care for the most serious emergencies.

“We are continuing to embed our recent A&E changes and appreciate that it has been a major service change for local people and one which is at the forefront of the NHS. It is important, however, that everyone takes responsibility for using services appropriately. Our urgent care centres are open 24/7 and we would urge people to attend these walk-in services for minor problems or to call NHS 111.

“Speaking as a GP, I would also like to remind people that their GP practice should be the first point of contact for most medical problems and ongoing care.

“If your problem is not urgent and has been present for a while, your GP will be able to refer you to the right specialist for treatment.”