Construction on new 60-bed unit to relieve Northampton's strained A&E will start this month

The new 60-bed assessment unit will be started later this month.
The new 60-bed assessment unit will be started later this month.

Northampton General Hospital has been given the go-ahead to construct a £12million emergency assessment unit for its A&E.

Starting this month, work will begin to build the 60-bed unit to care for seriously unwell patients who are transferred from A&E for further treatment.

Northampton General Hospital chairman Paul Farendon.

Northampton General Hospital chairman Paul Farendon.

It comes as part of a series of measures to streamline A&E and redirect patients who could be more appropriately treated by a GP. This includes a £850,000 GP-led streaming unit located at the Springfield entrance.

The two-storey assessment building will be constructed on the site of the car park by the main Cliftonville entrance. It is expected to be complete by summer 2018.

A spokeswoman from Northampton General Hospital said: "The assessment unit construction project will take place alongside work to provide new GP streaming facilities at the entrance to the hospital site at the Springfield building. This means that patients who attend A&E who would be more appropriately seen by a GP will be directed to the new facilities.

"On average, we see 70 patients each day in A&E who could reasonably have been expected to see a GP or pharmacist instead.

"The location of Springfield close to our emergency department will ensure that patients in need of primary care services can receive these in the most appropriate setting and help take some of the pressure from the increasing attendances in the A&E department."

Earlier this year, Northampton General Hospital experienced "the busiest winter on record" as the strain on 765-bed hospital led to ambulance crews waiting over an hour to hand their patients over for treatment.

Bed pressures also caused 38 operations to be cancelled in February after the hospital spent 12 days on red alert and 14 days in total on black alert. This meant hospital staff had to have 'crisis' meetings every few hours to assess their capacity and care priorities.

The new emergency assessment units will be staffed by a dedicated medical and nursing team supported by services such as a pharmacy.

A report published in May that announced the approval said: "Our hospital has responded well to the rising numbers of emergency patients in recent years but despite the incredible commitment of all of our staff we continue to struggle to see, treat, admit and discharge patients as smoothly as we would like. This new unit will help us to do that.

"We are aware that the development of the new assessment unit will mean the loss of some car parking provision on the site. We are purchasing additional spaces in other car parks to replace this, but there will inevitably an impact. The majority of traffic will be banned from the development area, with priority given to emergency vehicles."