Queen Alexandra Hospital pilots first UK Emergency Department appointment slots to reduce risk of Covid infection
QUEEN Alexandra Hospital is the first hospital in the country to try a new scheme in which some patients who contact NHS 111 are given a booked time slot at the Emergency Department (ED) rather than joining a queue.
The hospital has stressed that emergency cases will still be admitted straightaway, that nobody will be turned away, and that the booking system is optional – patients will choose to take an appointment.
The pilot at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, is being run with South Central Ambulance Service (Scas) NHS Foundation Trust, and will see patients who contact 111 by phone or online – if they want to – being allocated a time to attend the ED at QA.
The aim is for patient appointments to be staggered to reduce congestion in the ED and means that people spend less time in waiting.
Following the assessment process those patients who need immediate medical treatment will still be directed or brought straight to the ED. The system has been launched today with QA the first hospital to pilot the scheme along with a number of London hospitals which will be ‘introducing a similar system’.
QA medical director, Dr John Knighton, said: ‘This system has got real potential. This is an additional level of service to improve patient experience and direct people to the relevant area of care while at the same time reducing congestion in waiting areas.’
Scas medical director, Dr John Black, added: ‘Reducing congestion and ensuring people are directed straight to the appropriate care optimises the experience for both the patient and medical staff.’
While Covid infection rates across the city have reduced, the virus has not been eradicated and both doctors hope the new booking system can play a part in preventing a second wave of infections.
Dr Knighton said: ‘By cutting down congestion and the time people are spending in waiting areas this will inevitably reduce the risk of the transmission of Covid. Hopefully reducing waiting times will also increase patient confidence in the risks of contracting Covid and make them confident to seek treatment.’
The response comes after what Dr Knighton described as a generally quiet period in the department since the onset of the pandemic.
While the QA medical director feels the system may have been ‘brought in anyway’ he certainly feels the escalation of the pandemic has played a role in hastening the process.
Dr Knighton added: ‘Covid has caused all sorts of reviews of how we do things and this is just one of those areas of opportunity for improvement.’
Both doctors were keen to stress the pilot system is in addition to current ED provision and that patients with life-threatening conditions or who ‘turn up at hospital’ will still receive the appropriate treatment.
Dr Black said: ‘Following their 111 assessment, if any patient is deemed to be a life-threatening emergency then this will be passed straight to 999 and an ambulance will be sent if needed.’
Dr Knighton added: ‘Our Emergency Department is open just as it always has been. If patients arrive without calling 111 then they will still receive the necessary care.’
The pilot will be under ‘constant review’.