A&E care centres to ease strain

Plans aimed at relieving the strain on accident and emergency wards have been announced by Health Minister Edwina Hart.

“Urgent” care centres will be given a trial, diverting patients away from A&E units if their lives are not in danger.

It has been welcomed by Wales’ ambulance chief who says using his service is not always warranted.

Ms Hart said the strategy “rebalances” a system “designed to cope with the past”.

Every year some 1.4m patients are driven to hospital by paramedics despite the fact their illness is not considered an emergency.


Waits of up to four hours for treatment can still occur at some Welsh hospitals and up to eight hours as ambulances queue up outside waiting to hand over patients.

The planned new emergency care centres aim to assess and treat people whose lives are not at risk.

Better links with minor injury services are also being promised, as well as clearer advice for patients.

Alan Murray, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said people needed to realise there were other options available for treatment.

He said: “A lot of people dial 999 because they need some form of care in what they very clearly see as an emergency, but it may not be appropriate to send a full emergency ambulance response.

“So in our end of the unscheduled care realm what we’re looking at is offering other items on the menu, that will clearly help us as well, because it will reduce the number of people going to the front door of the hospital.”


Ms Hart, announcing the strategy in the Senedd, said: “We’re looking at ways in which we can improve access for the public

“There are four-hour targets which monitor the length of time patients spend in the A&E department.

“But I am concerned that these services are treating patients who perhaps could and should be treated elsewhere.

“We must ensure that we are helping patients access the right services and we will be monitoring attendances at those departments to see how this strategy has been implemented.”

Last week Ms Hart asked for figures to be collected on patients who use A&E when they could instead see their GP.

A consultant at the A&E department at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital at Llantrisant, estimated up to 40% of the 200 patients treated there daily should be seeing their GP instead.