Should urgent care centre be revived to ease A&E crisis?

6:00am Wednesday 23rd April 2014

By David Trayner

SOUTHEND Hospital should bring back plans for an urgent care centre to ease the burden on its stretched A&E department, a councillor has said.

Ted Lewin, Lib Dem councillor for St Laurence and a hospital governor, wants plans for the new centre brought back to ensure patients are seen more quickly.

Plans for the centre were scrapped in 2010 due to concerns over parking, but the new calls are made as the hospital’s A&E department struggles to cope with the influx of patients.

A report last month found it had the worst A&E waits in the country.

Mr Lewin said: “It was a shame plans were turned down and I hope the hospital reawakens them.

“Anything that can be done to speed up A&E and take the pressure off doctors is needed.”

The trust applied to build an urgent care centre, where doctors would assess and order the urgency of incoming patients’ need for treatment, a process known as “triage”, on part of the hospital car park to cut A&E waiting times in 2010.

Planning officers backed the scheme, but councillors refused it twice over the loss of 20 parking spaces as staff and hospital visitors already clogged nearby streets with cars.

The council has since introduced a residents’ parking zone around the hospital to protect people living nearby and the Lib Dems have called for the urgent care centre plan to be revived.

Lib Dem leader Graham Longley said: “Any provision for further services, including a further triage centre, must benefit the town and maybe the hospital needs to review its decision.”

Casualty delays have been blamed on people visiting A&E with less urgent health problems.

The hospital, which already has some triage facilities, brought in an extra GP to help assess patients when hit by an unusual influx of people, on Friday, April 4. Southend Council voted unanimously to urge the health and wellbeing board, which is made up of top brass from the hospital, council, the GPs responsible for Southend’s healthcare and Sept, which provides mental health, learning disability, social care and community services, to urgently address the A&E department’s poor performance at a meeting last Thursday evening.

No-one from the hospital was available for comment.

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