Leaders at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust are cutting nighttime A&E services to cope with winter pressures.
From Thursday 1 December, the opening times of the trust’s three urgent care centres at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals will change from 24 hours a day, to become 8am to midnight, seven days a week.
This temporary measure is being taken as part of winter resilience planning across the NHS in Northumberland and North Tyneside and means that, nursing staff can be deployed where there is most demand on services from patients.
Since transforming emergency care and opening The Northumbria hospital in June 2015, activity overnight at the trust’s urgent care centres has been minimal with, on average, less than ten overnight attendances a day across all three urgent care centres.
Between the hours of midnight and 8am, the trust has seen an average of two attendances at Hexham, four attendances at Wansbeck and four attendances at North Tyneside.
The trust, which was rated as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, has also recorded 83 days where there have been no overnight attendances at all between the hours of midnight and 8am at Hexham’s urgent care centre.
At North Tyneside there were 12 days with no overnight attendances and at Wansbeck there were 19 days with no overnight attendances.
In light of these extremely low numbers, the trust is working with its urgent care nursing staff to ensure their skills can be put to best use to meet demand across the trust.
This will include supporting teams overnight at The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington, where very high numbers of seriously ill or injured people, particularly the frail and elderly, will need emergency hospital admission during winter.
Some nursing staff in the trust’s urgent care centres have already been rotating to The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington since the emergency care changes were made in June 2015 and rotas will now be adjusted for the next three months to ensure that vital resources are focused where they are most needed to help manage demand for services across the trust.
Northumbria Healthcare is holding meetings with staff and working closely with staff side representatives to ensure nurses affected by this temporary measure are redeployed appropriately given their individual personal circumstances and ability to travel.
The trust is keen to emphasise that this is a temporary measure only. It is being taken as part of proactive winter planning to ensure operational resilience, that vital nursing staff are concentrated where they are most needed overnight and to ensure that patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside have access to the highest possible quality and safety of care.
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “The numbers of attends overnight at our urgent care centres has been very small since we made our emergency care changes over a year ago and we know that there are other safe out-of-hours arrangements available for patients, via NHS 111, should people in Hexham, North Tyneside or the Wansbeck areas need to speak to a medical professional during the night.”
Dr John Matthews, a GP in Wallsend and clinical chair at NHS North Tyneside CCG said: “The trust is taking very sensible steps – albeit as an interim measure – so that nursing staff can be deployed where their skills will be needed most this winter.
“It is important that everyone living in North Tyneside takes responsibility for using their NHS services wisely this winter – a time when we know more people, particularly the frail elderly need emergency hospital care. It is vital that we all play a part in keeping these services free for those who need them most.”