A pilot is being launched from Monday 25 October which will see a change to the way patients who attend A&E at Arrowe Park Hospital are cared for, potentially enabling them to be treated faster and closer to home.
Any patient attending A&E who needs emergency treatment will receive it, however, from Monday 25 October anyone attending whose care is not an emergency could be directed to an alternative service in the community more appropriate for their care, and where it is safe to do so. They could be directed to an appropriate service such as an Urgent Care Centre, Walk-In Centre, Minor Injury Unit, a local GP or a local pharmacy.
As is the case nationally, the A&E in Wirral has seen an increase in patients arriving compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first eight months of 2019, there were 59,599 people attending A&E. This compares to the same period of 2021, where there were 62,385 attendances. This is an additional 2,786 attendances, which is a 5% increase. Many of those attendances were not emergencies. If this trend continues over this year, there could be 4,000 additional attendances compared to 2019.
The pilot further builds on the national NHS 111 First campaign which was launched in December 2020 and aims to ensure patients are seen in the right healthcare setting at the right time.
One of the major benefits of the pilot is expected to be a significantly improved patient experience. Crucially it is expected to reduce long unnecessary waits in A&E, with patients directed to a more appropriate place for their care as those in urgent need of care are prioritised for treatment in the Emergency Department. This will also enable emergency care teams to focus on patients who attend with an emergency.
Another significant benefit of the scheme is how it will ensure social distancing is maintained in the A&E waiting area, keeping urgent patients and staff safer from the spread of COVID-19 and other infections.
Dr Nikki Stevenson, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said, “The experience of our patients is a top priority and we are undertaking this pilot within our Emergency Department to ensure we are providing the highest possible standard of care to those coming to our hospitals for emergency treatment.
“The range and breadth of high-quality health care services available to people across Wirral is considerable and while we understand people are often anxious to be seen quickly when they do attend A&E, it is often the case that they could be seen more appropriately, and considerably more quickly, elsewhere.
“Where people need to access NHS services, but their need is not an emergency we would urge people to contact 111 online in the first instance and allow the experienced call-handlers to direct them to the best service for their care.
“People can be absolutely assured that if they have an emergency, we are open and are here to care for them. In an emergency, people should always still call 999.”
People with an urgent but non life-threatening medical need are urged to visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111 in the first instance. They can also visit a GP, a local Walk-in Centre, or a pharmacist. There is also lots of advice available for self-care on NHS website nhs.uk
Responding to the announcement of a new pilot system at Arrowe Park Hospital A&E, Dame Angela Eagle MP for Wallasey said, “Whilst I welcome the development of systems to reduce waiting times and improve patient experience at Arrowe Park Hospital A&E, I am concerned by the lack of signposting for those in need of care regarding where it is most appropriate for them to present within this new pilot.
“I have requested to meet with Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) urgently to discuss this pilot system, and to seek reassurances regarding its implementation.
“I am worried that this system may leave some vulnerable patients hesitant to attend A&E for fear of being turned away or sent to one of many other services. I am also concerned that barriers in accessing care at a primary care setting, such as struggling to book an appointment with the GP, may be driving people to A&E unnecessarily and intend to seek reassurance from Wirral CCG regarding what action is being taken to address this locally.”