NHS temporary urgent care arrangements to stay in place

Leaders at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed that temporary arrangements at its urgent care centres in Northumberland and North Tyneside will remain in place for a further three months to ensure that the skills of its nursing staff are best utilised where they are most needed by patients overnight.

Monday, 26th June 2017, 12:13 pm
Updated Monday, 26th June 2017, 12:14 pm
Dr Jeremy Rushmer

Since December 2016, urgent care centres at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals have been open from 8am until midnight, seven days a week.

The temporary change in opening times overnight was put in place as part of proactive resilience planning to maximise the skills of staff during the busy winter period due to the low numbers of people attending urgent care centres between midnight and 8am.

These arrangements were extended in March 2017 as NHS services remained extremely busy and, as demand continues to be very high, healthcare leaders at the trust have agreed that it would be inappropriate to deploy staff back to the urgent care centres overnight at the current time. This is to ensure best use of precious staffing resources to deliver patient care where it is needed most.

Since the interim measure was put in place, there has been no detrimental impact on patient care or any significant change in the number of people accessing services overnight at The Northumbria hospital as a direct result.

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All three urgent care centres remain extremely well used with no significant shift in the number of people accessing services every day

Following the transformation of emergency and urgent care with the opening of The Northumbria hospital in 2015, overnight attendances at the trust’s three urgent care centres has been minimal with, on average, less than ten overnight attendances a day across all of them. This included an average of only two attendances overnight at Hexham and four at North Tyneside and Wansbeck. Across all three urgent care centres there were 114 days (almost four months of the year) with no activity at all between midnight and 8am – 83 of these days were at Hexham.

In light of these extremely low numbers and since the interim measure was put in place at the end of last year, nursing staff have been supporting teams at The Northumbria, caring for people who are seriously ill and injured from across Northumberland and North Tyneside, to ensure their skills are utilised where there is most demand for patients. The arrangements will now continue.

People in Northumberland and North Tyneside are reminded that should they need urgent medical advice overnight, NHS 111 is available 24/7 and will direct people to the most appropriate place for the seriousness of their condition.

If people are experiencing a serious emergency such as a suspected stroke or loss of consciousness, they should go straight to The Northumbria or call 999 where an ambulance will take patients to the most appropriate place to treat their condition.

The trust is again keen to stress that this is a temporary decision only for a further three months and will continue to work with both NHS Northumberland and North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on future arrangements.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’d like to assure residents in Northumberland and North Tyneside that this decision to temporarily extend the current arrangements at our urgent care centres has not been taken lightly and we fully understand that people care passionately about services at their local hospital.

“It was entirely correct for us to put in place the interim changes at the end of last year and, in the wake of services being extremely busy across the NHS, they have helped us successfully meet the high demand we continue to see, even now during the summer.

“As a result, it would simply not be the best use of our staff’s time and expertise to deploy them back now plus, with intense pressure on NHS resources, all trusts must play their part in making best use of public funds. We’ve looked in detail at how local people are accessing our urgent and emergency care services and spoken to our teams who agree that their skills are best used where they are of most benefit to patients during the night.

“It’s now two years since we transformed emergency care with all serious emergencies being cared for at The Northumbria where our consultant-led specialist teams are on hand 24/7 to treat people who are seriously ill or injured.

“As we continue with these interim arrangements and work with both CCGs, we would remind people of the very safe out-of- hours arrangements available, via NHS 111, should anyone need urgent medical advice during the night.”

Dr David Shovlin, a GP in Hexham and director for unplanned care at NHS Northumberland CCG, said: “We have spoken with the trust and fully support the further extension of the temporary arrangements that are currently working well in the face of continued high demand. Beyond ensuring the safety and quality of commissioned healthcare services, one of the CCG’s key duties is to ensure that services are delivered effectively, economically and efficiently. The CCG will continue to work with the trust to ensure that this remains the case for urgent care centres.”