Emergency and urgent care services at Lister Hospital in Stevenage and the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City will receive a £6 million investment from the government, it has been announced today (Thursday 17 September).
East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals, put forward a successful bid to fund a number of improvements which will benefit patients visiting Lister’s emergency department and the Urgent Care Centre at the New QEII.
Today’s announced £6m is the first of an expected series of investments to upgrade the emergency department and urgent care centre.
These include a triage and streaming hub which will provide a new ‘front door’ for Lister’s emergency department – ensuring the needs of patients can be swiftly identified, even before entering the hospital.
The Lister already has a temporary pod which was set up during the coronavirus pandemic to keep those with COVID-19 symptoms separate from other patients, but the permanent facility will help staff work more closely with NHS 111 and enable other community services to be based there.
This will mean frail patients and those who need further tests, for example, can be directed straight to an assessment area rather than having to wait in the emergency department to be seen.
Creating more space for assessment areas near to Lister’s emergency department also means that many patients will be able to be seen, diagnosed and treated – and allowed home – on the same day.
The funding will see an expansion of the hospital’s paediatric emergency department, with more cubicles designed to be flexible to handle seasonal increases in children requiring urgent care, and used as a space for minor injuries at other times.
The plans include a dedicated space for patients presenting with mental health emergencies, away from – but very close to – the main emergency department waiting area at the Lister. This will meet demand, and ensure there is plenty of space to safely treat those who also may have COVID-19.
Patients will also benefit from having X-ray services much closer to the hospital’s emergency department, ensuring they can be diagnosed more quickly and without travelling to Lister’s main X-ray department to wait along with other, non-emergency patients. Patient dignity will be improved as those in gowns won’t need to wait alongside clothed patients.
Due to the pandemic, since March patients with minor injuries and illnesses have not been treated at the Lister – often being directed after contacting NHS 111 to the New QEII’s Urgent Care Centre for treatment.
The investment will therefore include a redesign of the centre to create more space for follow-up appointments for patients who have visited Lister’s emergency department, but require further treatment or tests. The redesign will also mean vulnerable patients can access appropriate services for testing, meaning that they may not need to enter a hospital.
Nick Carver, Chief Executive for East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, said: “Securing this investment is fantastic news which will benefit so many of our patients who require emergency care.
“Over the last five years, the number of people attending our emergency department has risen by more than 15,000 people per year. This means on average we see over 300 more people per week.
“This funding will play an important part in ensuring patients continue to receive high quality, compassionate care as demands for our services increase, as well as ensuring we can maintain social distancing and provide separate spaces for potential COVID-19 patients this winter and beyond.”