PRESSURES should be eased at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s accident and emergency department this winter thanks to a new initiative.
Patients who turn up at A & E with non-urgent conditions from the beginning of December will be diverted into an area staffed by highly-qualified GPs and nurses .
They will deal with minor problems such as dental pain, requests for emergency contraception and minor scratches, cuts and bruises.
Originally, the scheme was referred to as a walk-in centre but due to winter pressures, plus the added factor of swine flu, it was felt the arrangement should not initially be viewed as an open access service.
However, over the next few months the scheme will be developed so that it becomes a walk-in centre, open to the general public, which is expected to happen early in 2010.
Helen Bellairs, chief executive of Western Cheshire NHS, which has developed the project in conjunction with the Countess, explained: “We’re not going to advertise it as another service until we have gauged how flu and other things hit us.
“We want to make sure we have got the capacity to protect the hospital from the impact of flu. Anybody turning up with a minor ailment will be seen by the GPs but we don’t want to encourage people to use it was as a treatment service until we have got through the winter.”
The urgency of the new facility became clear last winter when A&E struggled to meet the four hour waiting time target.
There had been plans to open a walk-in centre in Blacon.. The advice from consultants was to set up the centre within A&E but the Blacon scheme may follow.