Hospital bosses plan to open an urgent treatment centre as an alternative to accident and emergency (A&E) at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The new treatment centre might have a familiar feel for staff and patients as it will take over from the urgent care centre which is currently based there.
The main changes appear to be a slightly different name – and the capacity to see patients who have made an appointment as well as those who turn up at the door.
One of Brighton and Hove’s senior health commissioners Ashley Scarff explained the changes to local politicians this afternoon (Wednesday 17 July).
Mr Scarff said: “It’s the same service at the same location with the same staff seeing the same people but people will be able to book slots.”
He told members of Brighton and Hove City Council that it was more than just a rebranding. It was part of a national programme which involved simplifying the jargon to help people work out where best to go for help.
In a briefing paper to the council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, he said: “Urgent care is a term used to describe the range of services people access who require same day health or social care, advice and/or treatment.
“Emergency care describes services which respond to serious or life-threatening illness or injury like A&E and 999.
“Across the country, people have fed back that the number of different NHS services available to them is confusing, particularly when they need urgent care.
“This is understandable as there are many services that do similar things but have different opening times and have different names such as urgent care centres, walk-in centres, minor injuries units and GP health centres.
“This confusion means some people are not clear where to go to get the help they need, often ending up in A&E as it is a well-known and trusted service when they could have been treated quicker and easier elsewhere.
“This can put A&E under additional strain, leading to sick patients waiting longer to be treated than they should and hospital staff being put under more pressure.
“As well as being confusing for the public, having lots of different services all working in different ways means the care being provided is sometimes not as seamless as it could be.
“This can mean some patients do not get the right care they need, where and when they need it.
“For some patients, particularly the elderly and frail, this can mean they don’t get help until they reach crisis point and then end up in A&E.
“They might even end up being admitted to hospital when there are better, more appropriate, ways that they can be treated.”
While urgent treatment centres (UTCs) are expected to be open at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week, the centre at Royal Sussex will be open round the clock.
Councillors were told: “The Royal Sussex County Hospital UTC will be designated by December 2019, although some workarounds will be in place while building works continue at the site and until the new NHS 111 contract commences (in) April 2020.”
Green councillor Steph Powell asked: “Will people say, I can’t book an appointment with my GP so I’m going to this?
“Will someone be monitoring this and managing who is going to present here?”
Mr Scarff said that patients could use the centre if they could not get an appointment with their GP (general practitioner) as it would be there to be used.
Conservative councillor Alistair McNair asked about publicity and whether people would understand the difference between an urgent treatment centre and the walk-in centre by Brighton station.
Mr Scarff told the meeting at Hove Town Hall that there would be media campaigns nearer the time.
He added that funding for the walk-in centre, in Queen’s Road, had been confirmed for 2019-20 although it would be reviewed by the end of this year.