Pressure grows on emergency health services

Ambulance crews wait outside hospital
Ambulance crews wait outside hospital
Philip Astle, SCAS chief operating officer and, right, Paul Jefferies, assistant
director of operations

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OPENING hours at a treatment centre are being extended to help ease the pressure on accident and emergency wards.

The announcement for St Mary’s NHS Treatment Centre, in Milton, comes as the ambulance service reveals a dramatic increase in emergency 999 calls over the Christmas period compared to last year.

The treatment centre has a minor injuries service and illnesses unit which normally closes at 10pm.

But it will remain open until 11pm tonight, Friday, Saturday and, possibly, Sunday.

Patients arriving at the emergency department of Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, will be seen by medical staff in the usual way, assessed, and the less serious cases will be asked if they would consider going to the treatment centre instead.

Richard Samuel, chief officer for both Fareham and Gosport and South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: ‘There is always extra pressure on the NHS at this time of year and this year is proving no exception.

‘We are continually putting out messages asking people to consider the various options available to them if they feel unwell, which obviously include the walk-in facilities at St Mary’s.

‘Some patients who go to emergency department will be asked to consider going to St Mary’s. This will be entirely voluntary. But they could be seen much faster and if they do go they will be freeing up valuable staffing resources at ED for the most serious cases.’

South Central Ambulance Service (Scas) has revealed that on Saturday, December 27, the number of 999 calls were up nearly 29 per cent on the same day last year.

And on December 19 – the last Friday before Christmas – the figure was 20.47 per cent – up from 557 in 2013 to 671 this year.

In a statement, the service said: ‘Scas, like other emergency services, has faced significant pressure on demand over Christmas.

‘We continue to experience unprecedented levels of demand and urge the public not to call us unless they are in a life-threatening situation.

‘Our staff remain extremely busy and will be working hard to get to our most life threatening patients as a priority.

‘However, there could be significant delays in responding to patients who are not suffering from life-threatening symptoms.

‘If you do sustain minor injuries or illnesses then please use the most appropriate resources available to you.

‘Use all NHS services appropriately and remember to only call 999 in life-threatening emergencies.’