Discussion of future urgent and emergency care services restarts in Staffordshire

Discussions on the future of urgent and emergency care services in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent have restarted – and residents are being urged to have their say this month.

The current system of walk-in centres and minor injuries units is set to be replaced by “urgent treatment centres” as part of a planned overhaul of health services. The aim is to reduce confusion for people who require treatment quickly but do not need to attend an emergency department (A&E) at a hospital.

There are walk-in centres and minor injuries units in Leek, Stafford, Cannock, Lichfield, Tamworth and Burslem. But the minor injuries units in Leek and Cannock have been affected by temporary closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

The MIU at Leek Moorlands Hospital has now reopened but the MIU at Cannock Chase Hospital remains closed, despite repeated calls by councillors and a petition signed by hundreds of people asking for the walk-in service to return.

In 2019 the Together We’re Better (TWB) Partnership, which is leading the overhaul of NHS services in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, hosted a 12-week public conversation to seek residents and patients’ views on local health and care provision and how to improve it.

More than 2,000 people had their say and the feedback was used to help develop proposals for future services. This work was put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic however.

Health bosses are now restarting the public conversation because of changes to services during the pandemic, such as the temporary MIU closures and increased use of telephone appointments.

They are once again seeking comments to help develop future service proposals and said no decisions have yet been taken as more work is needed.

Dr Steve Fawcett, clinical lead for the urgent and emergency care programme, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we have had to work differently, including social distancing in our waiting rooms, using new technology and maximising the use of our workforce. These challenges and innovations are still with us, but now is the right time for us to learn any lessons and understand people’s experiences as we seek to develop long-term solutions.

“We know from listening to local people that we have a patchwork of services, with different opening times and services available. This often confuses people, who are unsure where and when to go for help.

“These urgent treatment centres would offer more services and treat more complex cases than our current walk-in centres and minor injuries units. Opening times and the services available within the urgent treatment centres would be simpler and more consistent, meaning patients will get the treatment they need at the most appropriate location without having to wait unnecessarily while emergency patients are prioritised at our emergency departments.

“Urgent treatment centres cannot work alone, so we need to develop a range of services that ‘wrap around’ them, offering the right level of support.

“We need to design a whole-system approach, which connects all our services, so they work together as a network. This includes an enhanced community urgent care offer, which helps people to access urgent care at a local level.”

Residents and patients are being encouraged to share their experiences of urgent and emergency care services in an online survey, which is running until midnight on Sunday, October 31, or by attending a virtual event on October 13, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

For more information on the online events and survey visit twbstaffsandstoke.org.uk/get-involved/urgent-and-emergency-care-transformation. Anyone unable to attend a virtual event or complete the survey online should call 0333 150 2155 or email mlcsu.involvement@nhs.net for assistance.

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