Praise for new 'joined up' urgent care and A&E move at Sunderland Royal Hospital

NHS proposals to ‘co-locate’ urgent care and accident and emergency services at Sunderland Royal Hospital have been welcomed by city councillors.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 4:20 pm
Plans are in place to join-up urgent care and A&E units at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The Pallion Urgent Treatment Centre is based at Pallion Health Centre, off Hylton Road, near the main hospital site.

Under new plans from health bosses, the hub move next door to the emergency department within the hospital footprint as part of a drive to improve services.

An update on the changes came during a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee earlier this week.

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Councillors were told the move would allow ‘joined-up’ IT systems while also helping the NHS to manage pressures.

Although the relocation is expected to take place this year, no ‘go live’ date has been announced yet.

Philip Foster, managing director of All Together Better Sunderland, outlined the details of the changes to the council scrutiny panel on Wednesday (October 6).

“The benefits of that move will be to provide one point of access for the public, one front door, it will continue to support the principles of patients being seen by the right professional for their treatment at the right time,” he said.

“It would provide a bigger environment for patients and staff to work in and supports national guidance for emergency departments and urgent treatment centres to be co-located.

“So the aim will be to have the urgent treatment centre in the same footprint opposite the emergency department so literally people can just walk there rather than, at the moment, having to walk across through the car park.”

Health chiefs moved to reassure the committee that engagement work would take place with patients, Healthwatch and other partners regarding the changes.

When the urgent treatment centre is moved, the new location will be promoted, new signs will be put in place and advice will be given to people using the NHS 111 service.

The plans were welcomed by several members of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee including Pallion ward councillor Martin Haswell, who described the IT improvements as a “big positive step.”

Cllr Haswell went on to say: “I must welcome the move of the Pallion Urgent Treatment Centre into the footprint of the hospital.

“The [existing] access is atrocious, my residents go absolutely mad about it simply because it’s people who are elderly, infirm and rely on wheelchairs.

“So I think [the proposals] are overall good as it’s far easier getting into the A and E.”

Councillor Neil MacKnight, who chairs the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, added: “I’m very very pleased to see that we are going to co-locate this on the footprint of the hospital.

“You look at other sites around the region, such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, where they have got the same kind of set-up where you can step up and step down that level of care […] and patient flow is much easier.

“You do have access in a more joined-up way to the different clinical systems so there are a number of benefits from that and I’m very pleased to note those.”

Dr Tracey Lucas is a local GP in Sunderland and a senior responsible clinician leading work to improve urgent and emergency care services as part of All Together Better Sunderland.

Speaking after the council meeting, she said: “Co-locating the urgent treatment centre right next door to the emergency department at Sunderland Royal Hospital will be a hugely positive step forwards in allowing us to improve the delivery of care to those who need urgent help and improving the overall patient experience of the service.

“Being situated within the main hospital and adjacent to the emergency department means we will be able to ensure patients are seen in the right service more quickly.

“The move is one of many quality improvements we are making across the entire health and care system in Sunderland as we prepare for the challenging winter ahead.

“We are currently finalising these plans and will of course communicate widely with patients, the public and our key stakeholders as we prepare for this important move in the weeks ahead.”

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