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Ipswich Hospital's new £2.5m urgent care centre to help under-pressure A&E ward

PUBLISHED: 06:57 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 06:57 29 November 2016

Ipswich Hospital. Pic: Phil Morley.

Ipswich Hospital. Pic: Phil Morley.

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A multi-million pound new urgent care centre (UCC) could be approved for Ipswich Hospital in the next "few weeks" to improve standards for patients by lowering demands on its under-pressure A&E department.

The hospital asked NHS England to provide £2.5million for the project this autumn and is waiting to hear whether the bid has been successful before submitting a planning application to begin work.

The UCC would bring an end to patients turning up at A&E to seek treatment. Other than those brought in by ambulance, patients would be expected to check-in at a triage centre where staff would direct them to the most appropriate department.

Currently, nearly a quarter of patients using the hospital’s A&E could be treated somewhere else, placing unnecessary strain on the service. The new UCC is hoped to ease pressure from the department and improve standards of care.

A hospital spokesman said: “There’s a lot of research that shows having a busy emergency department leads to poorer patient outcomes. When we look at the most successful hospitals and the top performing organisations in terms of quality care, they tend to follow this model.”

The UCC would be built either adjoining or next to the A&E department. It would treat conditions such as sprains and strains, broken bones, minor burns or animal bites, leaving the A&E department free to deal with only the most serious emergencies, such as severe bleeding, loss of consciousness or chest pains.

The A&E department has faced growing pressures over recent months. Over the summer, the hospital was forced to make an “urgent appeal”to local GPs to work during an under-staffed weekend. The number of people attending A&E over winter is a particular problem, increasing from 19,208 in the winter of 2014/15, to 20,754 last year.

The bid to NHS England has been led by the hospital with support from the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group.

The hospital spokesman added: “We are awaiting to know if our bid has been successful and we are also waiting for final approval for the specification of the building.

“Once we know we have the approval for our bid and design we will go out to seek planning approval. We are hoping it will be in the coming weeks.”

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