New unit will help hospital prepare for winter pressures

Professor Willett officially opening the new ambulatory care unit Picture: JPUH

Professor Willett officially opening the new ambulatory care unit Picture: JPUH - Credit: JPUH

A unit tipped as crucial in a Norfolk hospital’s battle to cope with added winter pressures is already making a difference.

Part of the new ambulatory unit Picture: JPUH

Part of the new ambulatory unit Picture: JPUH - Credit: JPUH

The expanded ambulatory care unit was opened by Professor Keith Willett CBE, the medical director for acute care and emergency preparedness for NHS England, at Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital.

Ambulatory care is an outpatient service which brings healthcare teams to the patient and is nationally recognised as an effective way of delivering safe care for an increasing number of conditions, while improving patient experience.

It allows patients to receive diagnosis, observation, consultation, and treatment services in one area of the hospital – and is designed to be a ‘one stop shop’ for patients, reducing their time in hospital and preventing admissions.

An ambulatory care unit was established in the hospital in 2015 and quickly saw a huge increase in activity – a 37pc rise in one year alone.

Ambulatory nurse practitioner Karen Foden Picture: JPUH

Ambulatory nurse practitioner Karen Foden Picture: JPUH - Credit: JPUH

The old unit was designed to support 20 patients per day but sometimes had to cater for twice that number.

Now, ambulatory care is being delivered from a brand-new, purpose-built facility which is double the size of the old unit – and can see three times as many patients.

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The unit consists of:

•Six single treatment rooms

•An IV room

•A GP referral assessment area

•A point of care testing (POCT) room, which includes equipment which can provide diagnostic blood test results within five minutes.

•A reception area/nurses station

•A waiting area

After the opening, Professor Willett said: “The new unit will mean that people can get treated for a number of sudden illnesses, helping patients get safely home where possible on the same day.

“It will be key to avoiding unnecessary admissions to hospital wards, particularly for older people, and help us prepare as we head into the winter period.”

Ambulatory nurse practitioner Karen Foden, said the enhanced facilities were already having a positive impact.

“We’re really proud of the new facilities,” she said. “We are now able to see more patients than before, in far more comfortable surroundings.

“This is positive all round as it means more patients have a better experience as they are seen more quickly, by the right staff in the right place, which in turn helps reduce pressure in our emergency department and on our bed capacity in the hospital.”

A typical day

On November 15, the ambulatory care team helped a total of 40 patients.

A total of 30 of these patients were new to the unit, with the other 10 returning for on-going treatment/assessment.

Six of these patients had been referred to the unit by local GPs, two other patients had come in for assessment after surgery.

The other 22 patients had either come through the front door of A&E, or had arrived by ambulance.

Previously, all 30 of these patients would have had to wait in A&E – and potentially could have ended up being admitted into hospital.

Out of the day’s total of 40 patients seen in ambulatory, only six needed to be admitted and allocated a hospital bed.