Here is the first look into how the unprecedented demand for emergency healthcare is now being handled in Sunderland.
The Echo today shows the first part of a £20million revamp of the city’s Royal Hospital’s A&E department, which is now being called the Emergency Department (ED).
The first phase of the improvement is now complete, with all work set to be completed and handed over to the trust by early 2017.
The former department was built in 1978 and chiefs say that the new unit will help staff to handle the growing number of patients coming through the emergency system every day.
In the last decade alone, the department has seen the number of attendances grow from about 97,600 in 1994 to a huge 136,513 last year.
With the busy festive period in full swing, hospital chiefs are now urging patients to choose the correct service and avoid attending the emergency ward if at all possible.
We have glass that changes when touched by staff to provide much more privacy and dignity for patients than they would have had had in the old A&E department.Anthony Watson
Anthony Watson, who is project lead for the ED build and matron for emergency care at the Royal, said: “The encouragement from us is for patients to use the minor injuries units.
“We are here to treat people with serious injuries, not for accidents any more.
“Patients need to be using their GPs and urgent care centres as well as the 111 service so that they can be navigated to the right destination.
“We’ve got a wealth of urgent care facilities in the city which can carry out X-rays and other methods of diagnosis, so you don’t need to be in a hospital setting.”
Until phase two of the build, which is being carried out by contractor Willmott Dixon, is complete, ambulance and 999 patients at the Royal need to use the new ED entrance, which is to the right of the main entrance of the hospital on the Kayll Road side of the site.
Children in need of treatment should also use the same entrance.
GP referrals, walk-in patients and those needing medical attention outside of GP and urgent care centre opening hours must report to an alternative new reception point which can be accessed via a path behind the Fracture Clinic and is opposite the hospital’s multi-storey car park. Because of the size of the area, patients are being asked if they can attend with a maximum of one other family member.
Mr Watson added that “state-of-the-art” technology is an important feature of the new department.
“We have glass that changes when touched by staff to provide much more privacy and dignity for patients than they would have had had in the old A&E department,” he said.
“We are also using lean principles so that staff refill supplies from outside a patient’s room, so the patient doesn’t have to be disturbed.
“Monitors at the reception also show how each patient is going through the process of treatment.”
Carol Harries, director of corporate affairs at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The new department will result in a much improved environment for patients and for staff working in the unit.
“This is a really exciting time for the trust as we begin the foundations of an acute hospital for for the future.”