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Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care Centre Update

Posted: 13 December 2016

Staffing the overnight shift at the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) at Hemel Hempstead Hospital is increasingly problematic. The pool of doctors who are qualified and willing to work there overnight is small and has decreased. This has resulted in having to withdraw this service several times in recent  months including last week.

It is important to provide a consistent, dependable and therefore safe service during night time hours and in view of the prospect of continued staffing issues, there are plans to change the UCC’s opening hours. This means opening at 8am and closing at 10pm. Moving swiftly to these new times will avoid having to close overnight on an ad hoc basis with little or no notice to the public. This measure will come into effect on Friday 16 December when the UCC will close at 10pm and reopen on Saturday 17 December at 8am.

The service is commissioned by Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group from West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Katie Fisher said: “Patient safety is our priority which is why we are making this decision. It is better to be clear about the times the Urgent Care Centre is open rather than find ourselves faced with shifts that can’t be filled and the prospect of patients travelling to the centre only to find it closed.”

Overnight, the UCC is staffed by a qualified doctor, a nurse and a receptionist and an average of one patient per hour attends overnight.

At this stage there is no guarantee as to when the overnight aspect of the service will be resumed. The recent staffing issues have led all parties involved in running the UCC to consider what could be a more effective model in the future. Local stakeholders will be involved in work to review current services and how they are used.

People needing urgent care overnight can call the 24‐hour 111 service which will advise patients on suitable alternative services to meet their needs. The service will also help patients access the GP out of hours service to receive treatment overnight or arrange an urgent GP appointment the following day. In the case of serious injury or illness, the NHS 111 service can despatch an ambulance to the patient or advise them on emergency options.

Cameron Ward, interim accountable officer at Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The issue of the very low number of people using the service overnight is something we will ask local stakeholders to consider as we need to be able to prioritise our resources where they will be able to offer the maximum benefit to patients. The withdrawal of the overnight service, although unwelcome, is necessary. Whilst the UCC is currently hard to sustain on a 24 hour basis, we are committed to Hemel Hempstead being the location for a wide range of health services. This is why, together with the hospital trust, we are making a strong case for investment in services in Hemel Hempstead.”

Main Points

  • This closure is a short term measure acting in the interests of patient safety.
  • We are currently unable to secure sufficient GP cover overnight at Hemel Hempstead Hospital hence our need to close our overnight service.
  • Our new opening times at Hemel Hempstead Hospital are 8am to 10pm daily. If you need medical advice when the Urgent Care Centre is closed, please call 111. The NHS 111 service will help you get the treatment you need. In an emergency dial 111.
  • We want to reassure Hemel residents that any longer term decision to close the night service at Hemel would only be made after appropriate consultation. No longer term decisions have been made. We will review the longer term position of overnight closure at Hemel Hempstead Hospital in the new year.

If needing support outside our opening hours

Patients who may have attended the Urgent Care Centre overnight have a range of options that need not include visiting their nearest A&E department.

There are around 100 bookable appointments in total available overnight across NHS facilities at Hemel Hempstead, Watford, St Albans, Borehamwood and Potters Bar.

For residents in or near Hemel Hempstead, they can still be seen at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, via the 111 service.

There is also the possibility of a GP home visit for patients. In addition, an urgent GP appointment can be made for the following day. All of these options can be arranged via the 111 service. The 111 service also has information on late night and 24hr pharmacies.

Patients who do not require emergency treatment are strongly encouraged to use the 111 service in preference to an A&E where they may find themselves waiting behind other patients whose needs are greater. Anyone in severe pain or who becomes acutely unwell should always call 999.

Ends

For more information about our hospitals, visit www.westhertshospitals.nhs.uk. You can also join our near 5,324 followers on Twitter (twitter.com/westhertsNHS) or find us on Facebook (facebook.com/westhertsNHS).

  1. For more information, please contact the communications team in the Trust’s communications department on telephone: 01923 436 280/1 or email: info@whht.nhs.uk. Out of hours, please call 07900 228 031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is a large acute trust serving people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three sites at Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals and sees about 600,000 patients a year. We are one of the largest employers locally, with around 4,500 staff and volunteers.