On target for new Urgent Care Centre at Bedford Hospital

Bedford Hospital
Bedford Hospital

An urgent treatment centre (UTC) at Bedford Hospital is on course to open from the start of next month.

It will also aim to ease the pressure on the A&E during an initial six-month pilot, by cutting waiting times.

“We are on track to open on October 1,” said Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s director of planned and unplanned care, Jane Meggitt.

“There’s been significant progress in all the key areas that we monitor and on work with Bedford Hospital, which is going to provide the service for us.

“The good news is that progress is being made well on all of the areas,” she told a CCG meeting on Thursday.

“There have been a number of options for location, and the building work is happening at the Cauldwell (Medical) Centre.

“Staffing is always a critical issue for us and we heard today we have filled those positions from both a nursing and GP perspective.

“There’s a huge commitment to making this a success, and to work with others in primary care and with colleagues in A&E to make it part of a package of options for our patients and our public.

“You can walk in, we’re not saying don’t,” she added. “But it’s probably better if you ring 111 and it’s processed that way.

“We need to communicate this very wide and effectively. It’s quite confusing at the moment in terms of where to go.

“There are lots of different places and lots of new things, and we’ve got Putnoe (walk-in centre) issues still with A&E.

“We are working with the hospital and partners to get a clear signposted campaign, but it’s autumn and it needs to start very quickly.”

Residents fought to save the Putnoe walk-in centre, which served north Beds as well as people living north of the river in Bedford.

But NHS England said the CCG needs to provide the UTC in the town, where minor illness and injury can be treated.

The UTC has to be near facilities where patients can get an X-ray, have a blood test or provide a urine sample.

Earlier this year, the CCG indicated the Cauldwell Medical Centre, on the site of Bedford Hospital south wing, is the only suitable site to achieve this aim.

Primary care clinician Dr Jonathan Kirkham said: “The UTC is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity, and I am quite excited by the prospect.”

CCG lay member Alison Borrett said: “We need to act fast and we need to think how we touch the whole of the poplulation of Bedfordshire.

“Whether it’s through social media or through face-to-face we really have to make this pilot work.

“I would ask healthwatch to get feedback of what patients are saying, whether they are getting that communication.”

“Everything has been agreed as to how it’s going to be set up initially, and over time it will be monitored and audited, changed, improved, whatever.

“What we are hoping to achieve with the UTC is that we want patients to be seen at the right place, at the right location.

“Everyone presented at the new front door of Bedford Hospital will be clinically screened either to the emergency department or the UTC.

“We want patients presented with primary care issues to go to the UTC,” he explained.

“This should reduce inappropriate accident and emergency attendances and dependencies.

“Accident and emergency can concentrate on major trauma and surgical emergencies, so there are reduced waiting times and better patient service and clinical outcomes.

“I am excited. It should mean patients with primary care problems get seen by primary care clinicians and free up specialist accident and emergency staff to deal with major problems.

“And also a bonus would be if it’s more cost effective,” he added.

“We agreed a list of simple diagnostics with Dr Stuart Lloyd the consultant at accident and emergency.

“We would like to see how things pan out during the first three to six months to see if there are any more diagnostics we need.

“So watch this space. We will ensure what is needed will be available.”

CCG lay member Alison Borrett said: “We’ve only got 23 days. We need to act fast and we need to think how we touch the whole of the popluatlon of Bedfordshire.

“Whether it’s through social media or through face-to-face we really have to make this pilot work.

“I would urge the communications team that we really go out and are robust with the campaign.

“And I would ask healthwatch to get feedback of what patients are saying, whether they are getting that communication.

“It’s a pilot, so what process do we have for patient feedback and how that will shape the services of the future?” she asked.

The CCG’s director of planned and unplanned care replied: “We are looking for everyone to help us get it right.

“One of the possibilities is making sure there is something through everyone’s door, something to go on the fridge.

“In terms of how we evaluate the pilot as we go forward, there are a whole host of monitoring criteria we need to do as of the national specification.

“But also we are relating with Bedford Hospital as to what local things we would like to look at and patient experience is one of the top priorities.”

The CCG’s acting chairman Heather Moulder said they would ask Dr Kirkham to report back on progress in six months’ time.

Health managers hope their latest project to improve medical provision and cut waiting times in Bedford and the surrounding area will prove a success during an initial six-month pilot.