On Tuesday, August 11, the Prime Minister confirmed that 117 NHS trusts are to be allocated a share of £300million to upgrade A&E facilities, with £1million earmarked for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside.
The Government said that projects will be completed by the start of next year so hospitals benefit from the upgrades during the peak of winter.
The trust is using its funding to help change the layout of its emergency care hospital at Cramlington to better segregate people and ambulance crews, avoid queuing and improve how patients are streamed to other services in light of social distancing.
It comes as Northumbria Healthcare is is asking people to consider the pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just turn up to A&E. Those that do turn up inappropriately will be assessed clinically and may be turned away.
The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid-19.
Emergency departments are coming under even more pressure than usual due to social distancing and infection precautions, which mean the space available to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30 to 50%.
The trust’s executive medical director, Dr Jeremy Rushmer, said: “It’s vital for patient and staff safety that people get the right advice and treatment, when and where they urgently need it. We are now putting in place new measures to help support the public to make the right healthcare choices.
“If their issue is not life-threatening then we would advise patients to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.
“Many people who come into A&E could have been dealt with much more quickly and safely by an alternative healthcare service which also reduces the risk of transmitting Covid-19 or flu. This will be even more important as we move into the busy winter period.
“This winter, more than ever, it’s vital that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”
Responding to the funding announcement, the Conservative MP for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “I am delighted Northumbria NHS is to receive this extra funding to help ensure services remain efficient and open to all.
“It is vital that those who need emergency medical care know they can access it, even during the busier winter months.”
Cllr Veronica Jones, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for adult wellbeing and health, added: “Staff at Northumbria Healthcare Trust have worked tirelessly over recent months and I would like to thank them for everything they have done to get our local community through the coronavirus pandemic.
“While we hope for the best this winter, it’s right that we plan for the worst. This funding to upgrade A&E across the trust will ensure that we are in the best possible position for the challenges that the winter months may bring.”