North may pioneer super-casualty unit

A GROUNDBREAKING hospital specialising in emergency care could be opened in the North.

A GROUNDBREAKING hospital specialising in emergency care could be opened in the North.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is developing the idea for an emergency care centre – believed to be the first of its kind in the country – for patients in North Tyneside and Northumberland.

The trust has the busiest A&E departments in the North-East with 175,000 attendances each year divided between its North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham hospitals.

Doctors believe treating seriously ill patients under one roof at a purpose built state-of-the-art hospital with a pool of top specialists will give a higher quality and sustainable service in line with national guidance.

They said A&E departments at North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham would continue to treat “the majority of patients” and would not be downgraded to minor injuries units.

Chief executive Jim Mackey said: “Building a new centre will help us to maintain our position as leaders in the field of emergency care.

“We want to involve our staff and local communities to help us to provide the kind of service they want. Everyone needs emergency care at some point in their lives. I want outpatients to have the best care when they need it.”

A site is yet to be agreed, but discussions are focusing on a location between Wansbeck and North Tyneside with good road access – such as Cramlington.

The idea for the centre, which would have capital costs estimated in the region of £50m to £60m and could be built in three to four years, was aired by Mr Mackey at the trust’s annual general meeting.

Foundation trusts can borrow money to fund projects such as this but discussions are still under way as to how the centre would be financed, said bosses.

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell said the plans showed the “clear direction health care should be going in the future” but he called for A&E provision to stay the same at North Tyneside General Hospital and said the new centre had to be accessible to people from his constituency.

Steve Russell, executive director of emergency care for the trust, said: “The vast majority of people who come through A&E at North Tyneside and Wansbeck will continue to do that.

“It is not the case that they will just do minor injuries. They will do more than that.

“It is not cost-cutting, quite the reverse. We will have to invest a significant amount.”

The emergency care centre would house an A&E department, Intensive Care Unit, diagnostics, operating theatres and beds to care for patients, although the number of beds is still being discussed.

Patients would still return to their local hospital for rehabilitation.

The trust plans to discuss the concept with its locally elected board of governors for six months, followed by public consultation.

Ken Patterson, chair of the Patient and Public Involvement Forum for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, said forum members were looking forward to working with the trust on the proposals.

Simon Featherstone, chief executive of North East Ambulance Service said: “The ambulance service welcomes the opportunity to be involved at the very start.”

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Easy access is key to location

CRAMLINGTON is being tipped as a possible location for the new emergency hospital.

Hospital bosses are considering a site somewhere on the North Tyneside and Northumberland border and focusing on the triangle between the A1 and the A19 which would give good access for patients being transported to the centre.

The centre would treat people with serious injuries and illnesses.

The A&E units at North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham hospitals would continue to treat broken bones and conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, the most serious trauma patients with more complicated conditions
would continue to attend the region’s trauma centre at Newcastle RVI.

Patients with hip fractures in the Hexham catchment area will continue to attend A&E departments at North Tyneside and Wansbeck.

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