Building a combined centre for GPs and social services on the Northampton General Hospital site is the only long-term answer to its frequent A&E crises, the trust’s chief executive has said.
Dr Sonia Swart’s opinion comes in the wake of her comments that A&E crisis days were becoming more frequent because of increasing numbers in Northampton, particularly frail, elderly people.
Government thinking leans heavily towards providing more community services to keep people away from hospitals.
And NHS and council bosses in Northamptonshire have been attempting this stop-gap method for two years.
However Dr Swart said she believed it must now be accepted that sick people would always naturally gravitate towards a town centre hospital, regardles of whether that was appropriate. She said she advocated a return to parts of the 2006 NGH Masterplan, with a new multi-storey ward block and a combined GP and social services centre on the site.
The Masterplan suggested a single point of access to the site, with some patients getting a GP-type service or day case treatment, some receiving urgent care and others having A&E care.
She said: “If you had gradation with screening at the entry point, it might be a more efficient way of dealing with the problem rather than assume people won’t come to the hospital because the probably will keep coming here.”
Dr Swart said it was her belief there had “probably been insufficient notice paid to population expansion.”
She said she would like to see the NGH site become more of a ‘health campus’, which may mean putting community-type services on the site.
Other traditionally- acute services could be moved from the hospital site to create space.
The leader of Northampton Borough Council said he supported the idea of upgrading NGH facilities to help staff cope with an increasing population.
Councillor David Mackintosh said he needed to see specific plans, but revealed that he had already talked to hospital bosses about the principle of improving the current site, thereby easing pressures on accident and emergency.
He said: “We all love Northampton General Hospital and, unfortunately, many of us or our families have had to use the hospital over the years. It is a vital facility for Northampton and I have been working with the chief executive there to discuss high-level options.
“The borough bouncil will work proactively with the hospital to help improve the site and the vital important services they provide to the people of Northampton and we look forward to seeing more detailed plans going forward.”