Healthcare organisations in Bolton are carrying out a two-week pilot where inappropriate accident and emergency attenders will be streamed and directed to the most appropriate point of care.
NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust are piloting the new way of working in A&E from 1-15 August to try and help relieve pressure.
“Around a third of all those who go to our A&E department do not need to be there”
The move follows on from an initiative introduced in December, in which patients are redirected away from A&E at the Royal Bolton Hospital between 8am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
The new pilot will focus on extending this to “particularly busy times” in the evening and at weekends, said the trust and CCG.
Patients who visit A&E with minor symptoms, such as coughs and colds, are being given information on how to manage their illness themselves or may be advised to seek help from a local pharmacy.
Those who need to be seen by a GP will be helped to access an appointment at their practice, said the two organisations in a statement announcing the start of the pilot scheme.
The new approach is being highlighted by the installation of new signs on the hospital site, warning people that they may be turned away and directed to another, more suitable NHS service.
Depending on the success of the pilot, the trust and CCG will decide whether to make the process permanent.
Tim Almond, senior commissioning manager for urgent care at the CCG, said: “Around a third of all those who go to our A&E department here in Bolton do not need to be there.
“This essential service is under significant pressure and the CCG remains committed to doing everything we can to maintain patient safety and the quality of care,” he said.
Andy Ennis, the trust’s chief operating officer, added: “People who seek treatment at A&E when they don’t need to, cause delays for everyone and put additional pressure on staff who are already working very hard.
“We hope this pilot will reinforce the messages and support patients to find the appropriate place for treatment,” he said.
In July, a hospital in Greater London trialed a similar system where patients attending A&E “who do not need to be there” were given advice on more appropriate services.
The two-week trial operated at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, part of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, from 11 July to Friday 22 July, between 8am and 8pm.
Other trusts have attempted to reduce pressure on A&E by co-locating primary care and urgent care clinics with or nearby hospital services, but with limited success.
However, last month Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust said that its A&E patients arriving by ambulance were experiencing faster handover thanks to a nursing change.
The trust has introduced the role of nominated handover nurse, resulting in its performance on handover times improve dramatically since the spring.