A&E shake-up aims to save health chiefs £2m a year

EASING THE LOAD ... high numbers of people using the A&E service at South Tyneside District Hospital could have been treated elsewhere.
EASING THE LOAD ... high numbers of people using the A&E service at South Tyneside District Hospital could have been treated elsewhere.

PROPOSALS to change how urgent care services are provided by South Tyneside medics have been unveiled.

From today, people are being asked to have their say on NHS suggestions which are aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary visits to A&E, which officials say could save them up to £2m a year.

The proposals include:

* Creating a new urgent care “one-stop shop” at South Tyneside District Hospital.

* The closure of Jarrow Walk-In Centre from May 2015.

* Improving people’s access to GPs and pharmacies for minor illnesses and ailments.

The proposed shake-up comes as latest figures reveal that 60 per cent of patients seen at the borough’s A&E ward didn’t need treatment.

NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group – the new body responsible for the planning and buying of health services in the borough – is holding a public consultation on the plans for the next 12 weeks.

Dr David Hambleton, chief officer of NHS South Tyneside CCG, said that when feeling unwell, many people go for the quickest option available to provide healthcare and reassurance urgently.

That can often mean heading to A&E, when treatment or advice from a pharmacist, nurse or GP may be the better option.

According to the CCG, 56,508 patients were seen and treated at South Tyneside General Hospital A&E in 2012/13, at a cost of £5.3m.

Of those, 33,379 attendances – 60 per cent of patients – didn’t need any treatment at all and were given verbal or written advice and reassurance.

Urgent care means situations where treatment is needed quickly, but doesn’t require a hospital stay or visit to A&E.

Services include the NHS 111 telephone service, GP practices and out of hours, pharmacies and walk-in centres.

CCG officials hope the new “one-stop shop” proposal for South Tyneside District Hospital will make it easier for people to find the right service, with all of them under the same roof.

Dr Hambleton said: “We know that the way local urgent health care services in South Tyneside are arranged are not helping patients understand where to go, or sign post to the right service for the right level of care, or provide an obvious and easily-accessible alternative to A&E.

“Many patients who go to A&E at South Tyneside District Hospital or call 999 for an emergency ambulance do not need the high-level specialised care these services give.

“For the majority of patients it would be better to go to a different health service, but many may be unaware of the different options available to them.

“It might also be that for some patients they cannot get to see their GP soon enough, or don’t know what level of care or treatment they might need from different health professionals such as a pharmacist.”

No decisions have yet been made and the consultation is taking place during next month, July and August to present the proposals and offer people a chance to the give their views.

There will also be three public meetings taking place about the proposals in June and July.

The consultation will run from today until Friday, August 22. Full details can be found at www.southtynesideccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/

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