New measures to relieve pressure on overstretched emergency services have been launched in Gloucester this week.
GPs can now refer the most sick patients direct to the recently opened Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
And rapid response community care teams have also been deployed to treat people at home to help reduce A&E admissions.
The unit takes patients who need a quick diagnosis and treatment, but are not likely to need admission to hospital. Patients can come from A&E, but can now also be referred by their GP.
Bosses said that not only does it give patients more suitable, rapid care, it also relieves pressure on A&E, allowing it to focus on seriously-ill patients.
A spokesman for Gloucestershire Royal Hospital said: “Previously, many patients who were referred to hospital by their GPs or via our Emergency Departments were admitted to wards overnight to await tests scheduled for the following day. With this new initiative, many patients are able to stay at home and come in the following day.
“Another key benefit is that once care in AECU is complete, patients can go home with a plan for the next steps of their treatment, either in hospital or in the community.”
The development of the unit is key to the hospital’s acute medical strategy, and follows last year’s reconfiguration of some services at Cheltenham General. The opening of the Cheltenham’s AECU is expected later this year.
It comes as new health teams managed by Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust launched last week to provide a rapid response service in the community, rather than sending out ambulances. They will respond to urgent calls within one hour, for example where patients can be treated in the home.
Susan Field, director of adult services, said: “The ability to provide round-the-clock, urgent care in a community setting means patients can be treated in the most appropriate place for their clinical need, while helping reduce the pressure on community hospitals and acute services. I look forward to seeing this initiative extend across the county in the coming months.”
Dr Helen Miller, clinical chair at GCCG, said health services in the county faced the challenge of caring for an increasing ageing population with more complex health needs.
She said: “Working closely with GPs, teams can support people who would otherwise end up in hospital. They also carry out vital work in prevention and rehabilitation to ensure that people live well, and independently, for as long as possible.”