Almost 10 years ago when the walk-in centre first opened it was thought about a dozen or so patients might turn up.
But Penny Daniels, director of St Mary’s Treatment Centre in Milton Road, Portsmouth, said the site actually saw 70 people – and the figure hasn’t been that low since that day.
The site, which is run by Care UK and is nurse-led, sees about 126 patients each day, and can rise to 4,000 or so a month.
The average waiting time to be seen for an assessment is half an hour after arriving, 68 per cent or patients are seen, treated and discharged within two hours, and 89 per cent in three hours.
And of the 3,780 on average seen each month, around 285 are referred onwards to either A&E, the out-of-hours doctors’ surgery or to a specialist department such as urology.
The building is both a walk-in centre and minor injuries unit – this means as well as aches, pains, and illness, people can walk in with minor wounds and possible fractures.
Penny says: ‘I remember being here when it first opened and I thought we would probably get about 12 patients come in, but it was actually about 70.
‘And we have grown since then and have never dipped below 70 in the number of patients we see each day.
‘My team is highly-professional and skilled as they can deal with both injuries and illnesses and have experience with children and adults.
‘We have the same four-hour waiting time target as a hospital’s A&E department do, and we’re subject to inspections from the Care Quality Commission.’
The centre has 10 cubicles in which to see patients – these include two dedicated to children and one for adolescents.
There’s also a separate waiting area and entrance for children to enter, all designed to calm a child down and help them feel more safe.
Liam Earley, 33, of Essex Road, Southsea, came in after the ring finger on his right hand was causing him pain.
He says: ‘I came here because I can get to it easily and you don’t have to make an appointment.
‘Also I didn’t think it was severe enough to go to A&E.
‘I’d been having problems with my ring finger for about 10 days where it’s been painful for me to straighten it and it just kept bending on its own.’
Senior nurse practitioner Jayne Fairbrother asked Mr Earley, a cleaning manager for Fratton Park, to lay his hand out flat on the table and then try and keep his finger straight.
She says: ‘It was apparent the tendon in his finger may have collapsed, but just to rule anything else out I sent him for an X-ray.
‘This showed there were no problems with the bone and the best thing to do is strap his injured finger to his middle finger and allow the tendon to heal.’
As well as the cubicles, there is also a see-and-treat room, X-ray room, an eye unit, plaster cast room and a priority treatment room, which has resuscitation equipment.
Jayne adds: ‘Having these extra facilities means we can do a lot more for a patient than a GP practice might be able to, and the chances are people will be seen a lot quicker.
‘While we can’t do everything, there is a lot we can offer and can see people fairly quickly too.
‘This takes a pressure off the Queen Alexandra Hospital as it frees it up to deal with the more serious cases that do need to be seen there.
‘We have a good relationship with them, and if we are unsure of anything, or want to get a second opinion, then we’re able to contact them and have a discussion, before making a decision.
‘For some things though, like breathing problems and heart problems, a patient really needs to go to A&E, and we can’t help with that.
‘But for minor injuries and illnesses we can usually treat people here and then discharge them.’
Ricky Briscoe, 28, a builder, came in because he had a shooting pain under his left arm each time he stretched it.
He says: ‘I didn’t go to see my GP because I didn’t want to waste their time as it’s not a serious illness or anything.
‘I just needed to get it looked at and some quick advice.’
For Ricky, it was a case of a torn muscle and he was referred to a physiotherapist.
For other patients it might be an illness that brings them to the centre.
Sophie Stremel, 21, of Manners Road, Southsea, had been suffering from flu-like symptoms for more than a week.
She says: ‘I haven’t slept properly and feel cold and then sweaty in the night.
‘I have a real sore throat and am coughing up a lot of phlegm, and have just felt fed-up.’
In this instance the best thing for Sophie was to take painkillers, drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.
Around two-thirds of the patients who come in are there because of an injury, while the rest are seen for illness.
And a quarter of all those seen are children.
Claire Clarke, 34, brought in her son Tristan, one, after he banged his head and a lump appeared.
Claire, of Queen Street, Portsea, says: ‘I called my GP who said take him to A&E, but I didn’t think it was that bad, but still wanted a second opinion.
‘I also wanted to make sure that if he took a nap, then it wouldn’t put pressure on his head and hurt the bump further.’
Tristan was alert and responding well and the advice was to keep an eye on him and give him Calpol if needed to help him rest.
A spokesman for Queen Alexandra Hospital says: ‘We highly value the support of the minor injury unit at St Mary’s.
‘For a number of years it has provided community healthcare for injuries and illnesses, easing pressure and demand on our A&E department.
‘Many people believe the easiest and quickest way to receive treatment is to arrive at A&E, but for many injuries or ailments this is not the most appropriate course of action.’
Typically there are three nurse practitioners and one healthcare assistant from 7.30am to 10am, which increases to five nurses and two HCAs between 10am at 6pm, and then four nurses and two HCAs from 6pm to 10pm.
The last patient needs to be in by 9.30am before the centre closes at 10pm.
To find out more, go to stmarystreatmentcentre.nhs.uk
DEDICATED units to deal with eye problems and small fractures means patients can avoid going to A&E for help.
Barnaby Hatcher is no stranger to the eye unit at St Mary’s Treatment Centre as he came in this time last year with almost the same type of injury.
This time the 28-year-old of Fawcett Road, Southsea, scratched his eye after being hit in the face by a football.
The student services officer says: ‘I was playing football and was in goal, someone took a shot and the ball just got me square on my right eye.
‘It was streaming and stinging and had gone red, so I knew there was something wrong.
‘I went along to the treatment centre the next day as overnight it didn’t get better.
‘Last year I had a similar eye injury after someone blew glitter into it accidentally, which caused a scratch.’
Senior nurse practitioner Jayne Fairbrother was able to take Barnaby into the centre’s dedicated eye unit.
There she gave him an anaesthetic, before putting a dye in his eye and examining it. Straight away you could see a big scratch on the eye’s surface.
He was given drops to take and told to rest it.
And on the same day the plaster room also saw a patient.
Niall Hamilton, 63, suffered a fall in the night at the Elizabeth House Care Home, where he lives, in St Ronan’s Road, Southsea.
A carer brought him along to the centre where an X-ray found Mr Hamilton had broken his wrist.
Within minutes his arm was plastered and he was given advice on how to look after it.