A public consultation has been launched over a proposal to develop a new service co-located with A&E at Southend Hospital, once the contract for a walk-in service at St Luke's Health Centre has concluded.
Dr. José Garcia-Lobera, chair of NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "When the walk-in service was first created, the national guidance was that locations away from hospital sites were preferred. It was believed this would reduce attendances at A&E. But this has not been the case and A&E attendances have continued to rise.
"Now the Royal College of Emergency Medicine says services should be positioned where patient are attending, by co-locating Primary Care facilities with A&E. This approach is supported by leading national bodies including the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, the NHS Confederation, NHS England and the Department of Health."
The proposed service would include a new "front door service" to A&E which would ensure patients were directed to the most appropriate place for their treatment;
- Those with an urgent serious illness or injury would be admitted to the A&E department.
- Patients with an urgent minor ailment or condition would be seen by GPs or nurses co-located at the new service.
- Patients who did not need immediate care would be redirected elsewhere, including back to their own GP, local pharmacist or even to self-care at home.
It would be open 24-hours a day, seven days a week - longer than the opening hours of the current walk-in service (8am-8pm seven days a week). It would also ensure patients were being seen by the most appropriate service so that those who need specialist urgent care are seen and treated quickly.
Dr. Garcia-Lobera, said: "A significant part of the proposed new service involves re-routing patients away from the hospital if they have attended inappropriately. This could mean that if a patient attends with a minor ailment such as a cough or a cold they won't be treated at the hospital. Instead, staff might book them an appointment with their own GP, re-direct them to their local pharmacist or even advise them how to self-treat at home.
"The overall impact would be a reduction in people using A&E inappropriately and more support to help the hospital manage its patient flow. It will also put more staff on the front line at the hospital."
The public consultation includes a survey to capture residents' views on how they use local health services. This will be used to help inform the business case for the new proposal.
(click to view the one-page summary)