Temporary arrangements at urgent care centres in Northumberland and North Tyneside will remain in place for a until May 2017.
Since last December, urgent care centres at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals have been open from 8.00am until midnight, seven days a week. The temporary change in opening times was put in place as part of proactive resilience planning to maximise the skills of staff during the busy winter period.
Despite being into spring, NHS services remain extremely busy. Healthcare leaders at the trust agreed that it would be wholly inappropriate to deploy staff back at the current time, stating that vital expertise of nursing staff must be used where patients need them most overnight.
Heathcare bosses say that since the interim measure was put in place last December, there has been no detrimental impact on patient care or any significant change in the number of people accessing services overnight at The Northumbria hospital as a direct result and that all three urgent care centres remain extremely well used with no significant shift in the number of people accessing services every day.
Northumbria Healthcare put in place the temporary change to opening times in preparation for winter after looking in detail at activity levels since successfully transforming emergency care in 2015.
This showed an average of only two attendances overnight at Hexham and four at North Tyneside and Wansbeck. Across all three urgent care centres there were 114 days (almost four months of the year) with no activity at all between midnight and 8am – 83 of these days were at Hexham.
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The operational decision we took last December was absolutely the right thing to do and has helped us successfully meet the continued unprecedented demand we are seeing.
“Although it is now officially spring, it would not be a wise use of our staff’s time and expertise to redeploy them back at this time. We’ve looked closely again at the data and spoken with our teams who agree that their skills are best used where they are of most benefit to patients during the night.
“Since transforming our emergency care model in 2015, all serious emergencies overnight already go to The Northumbria hospital. This is where our consultant-led teams of specialists are concentrated 24/7 so we can offer the very highest quality of care available anywhere in the entire NHS.
“Overnight activity at our urgent care centres has always been minimal as those who are seriously ill or injured are cared for in exactly the right place, at The Northumbria hospital. As we continue with these interim arrangements, we would remind people of the very safe out-of-hours arrangements available, via NHS 111, should anyone need urgent medical advice during the night.”
The trust is again keen to emphasise that this is a temporary decision only which has been taken for operational reasons and will be re-visited in June 2017.