A new diagnostic department has been set up at Northampton General Hospital to divert patients with 13 common conditions away from A&E.
The trial ‘ambulatory care centre’ is in a converted area of the hospital close to the accident and emergency department which will deal with people with problems such as clots in their legs or lungs.
Once diverted from the main A&E department, staff at the centre will be able to assess patients quickly and give them a timescale by which they will be seen.
This contrasts with A&E, where waits can be anything from 15 minutes to several hours.
Clive Walsh, the hospital’s interim chief operating officer, said: “I’ve worked at a number of hospitals where this has been successful.
“It’s an efficient way of sorting out care for a lot of patients and the level of satisfaction of patients is very high. They get told exactly what we’re doing and given timescales so the sense of what we are doing for them is hugely increased.
“One of the very irritating things is that sometimes people don’t know what’s happening.”
Another of the aims of the new unit is to free up hospital beds. Instead of admitting patients to a bed with a suspected condition, doctors can run tests in the ambulatory care centre and either rule it out or admit the patient for treatment.
Mr Walsh said: “The new centre has medical and nursing staff, but the real difference is that there will always be regular slots for scans reserved for ambulatory care centre patients, which speeds the process up greatly.”
The centre will feature reclining seats and trolleys but no beds as patients will not stay overnight.
If the trial is successful NGH bosses want to eventually open up the centre to a total of 25 conditions.