AT 9am tomorrow morning, Queen’s Hospital in Burton will cement its place at the cutting edge of care – or so it believes – when staff open the doors to the new £1 million acute assessment centre.
Years of work to plan and set up the unit from disused hospital wards will come to fruition when the first patient walks through the door to receive the revolutionary treatment which will be used within the new centre.
Senior staff estimate it will reduce the amount of people heading to the accident and emergency department next door by roughly a quarter, drastically reducing the pressure placed on the straining casualty and its increasingly busy staff.
“The biggest thing for me is that the patient will have a better time, a better experience and a better journey through the ward,” said Stuart Logan, emergency care nurse manager, when the Mail was invited to look around the ward earlier today.
“It’s a new system . We have got a systematic way of getting everyone through which will make it better for the patients.”
The unit has been set up to deal with patients who have been referred to the hospital by their GPs, as well as those who arrive in a non-emergency ambulance. They can also come in from accident and emergency.
They can be booked in by their GP at a particular time, and head to the unit and be able to see the appropriate person as soon as possible.
From the moment of arrival to being told what is going to happen, the process should take no more than six hours, Mr Logan said.
Before now, patients who had been referred by their GP could go to the accident and emergency department at any time, and could be forced to wait for hours before they were even able to see anyone, let along before they were told about a course of action.
Mr Logan said: “We are trying to make sure we can schedule what we could not before. We can’t control the 999 visits, but we can schedule the referral process. It will make the process a lot more smooth.
“For many people coming to the hospital it’s a frightening time, and we want to try to alleviate that.”
From reporting to reception, patients will be taken to triage, and then they will be seen by a specialist. Those who need beds will be given them, and others can wait.
A lot of effort has gone into creating a calm and welcoming atmosphere at the unit.
The new 20-bed ward is no longer recognisable as the former clinical decisions unit and ante-natal area, as it now consists of clean lines and numerous private treatment rooms.
“We’re trying to keep it quite relaxed, informal and informative, to take people through their journeys,” Mr Logan added.
He stressed that patients would be kept informed of the progress of their treatment throughout, and that by the end of the initial six-hour window they would know whether they were to remain on the ward for observation, be admitted to a ward or go home.
There are a number of beds catering for people staying for 24 hours, and for those stopping for 72 hours.
Mr Logan said he thought the existence of this ward could help reduce the amount of people heading to A&E by about 40 each day, thereby relieving the pressure on staff and leaving them free to deal with genuine accidents and emergencies.
The scheduling system will also make it easier for staff to organise their workloads.
“We will be able to monitor what we’re doing on an hour by hour basis. At the moment, it’s a guess
Dedicated staff will be assigned to the unit, which will include specialists from all disciplines.
Sixteen new nurses have been taken on to staff this department and the accident and emergency department in a major recruitment drive currently under way at the hospital and within the hospital trust.