New plans for urgent medical care in Northumberland

A new model for urgent care in Northumberland is being drawn up, with the aim of creating a simpler system that can meet the demand in the right way.

Friday, 4th October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 3:02 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay

Urgent care is a range of health services that people access when they need medical care that cannot wait for a routine appointment with a GP, but is not so serious or life-threatening that they require emergency care at an A&E department.

In Northumberland, this includes NHS 111 and its clinical hub, two urgent care centres, four minor injuries units, out-of-hours GP provision and community pharmacies.

A report to a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee on October 1 notes that patients find the current system confusing ‘due to the different settings, variable service offers and opening times’ while professionals say that services are not as joined-upas they could be.

It adds: ‘The overall fragmentation of the system means that many patients may not be able to access the most appropriate urgent care service to suit their needs. This can lead to duplication and overuse of the most expensive services, at significant cost to the NHS.’

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This update comes as NHS organisations across the North East and North Cumbria have come together to issue a warning to the public to use their services properly.

Staff working in emergency departments across the region are reporting a significant increase in attendances on top of already record levels.

Figures show that on Tuesday October 1, more than 4,500 people attended the region’s emergency departments, with indications many were for conditions that should be seen elsewhere or increasingly for illnesses like flu which can be managed or avoided through vaccination and self-care.

The report to councillors on the future of urgent care said that ‘the aim is that within three years, the CCG will have commissioned fully-integrated, 24/7, seamless urgent care provision across Northumberland’.

It concludes: ‘By doing this, we will ensure best use of the Northumberland pound but most importantly we will ensure urgent care services enable people to be seen in the right place by the right person, first time and every time.’

Engagement with partners as well as patients is set to start this month and run until December, before proposals for each area of the county are presented to the health and wellbeing committee in February.

Councillors were told: “It’s not one size fits all across the whole county, but based on agreed principles.”

The meeting also heard that a new end-of-life strategy for Northumberland is to be drawn up, with the draft set to be completed for April next year.

It is recognised that an integrated approach is needed, with the first steps being engagement across health, social care, the voluntary sector and with the public.