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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
New centres to relieve A&E stress
Medical staff
Staff in A&E wards are burdened with patients who should not be there
Accident and emergency departments have become overloaded by too many people who could be better treated elsewhere, an assembly government report has said.

The document, Delivering Emergency Care Services (DECS), suggests setting up new treatment centres alongside traditional A&E units.

The centres would treat non-urgent cases and take pressure off A&E.

The strategy is also looking for greater integration between NHS Direct and the ambulance service.

Dr Gibbons launched the strategy at Morriston Hospital's A&E department in Swansea on Thursday at the start of a four-month consultation.

The number of patients going to A&E rose by 9% between 2002 and 2005, and the report says casualty units have become overburdened.

It added patients were not necessarily best served by being there and recommends opening treatment centres staffed by GPs and nurses next to casualty departments.

Dr Brian Gibbons
Dr Gibbons has put the strategy out to consultation

There will also be an enhanced role for paramedics with extra training, which is already underway, who would be able to treat people in their own homes or at the scene where appropriate rather than take everybody to A&E.

Other recommendations include: establishing integrated access points for all unscheduled care, using telephone and face to face contacts; developing regional plans and appropriate commissioning to implement new ways of working; and improving processes within A&E units.

Dr Gibbons admitted to BBC Wales that some of the rise in emergency admissions may be linked to the introduction of the GP out-of-hours service.

"There's no doubt that some people are coming to A&E because they are finding it difficult to access GPs services.

"One of the big proposals in this document is that GP out of hours services and A&E departments should work more closely together."

The Royal College of Nursing in Wales says the report does not go far enough, or answer questions on the role of highly trained and consultant nurses.

They want the assembly's health committee to scrutinise the government's plan.

RCN chief executive Tina Donnelly said: "I wouldn't call it a revolution by any means. It's been a long time coming.

"I'm very disappointed to see that they're not looking more at the role the whole of the health care team can play in improving access and quality of care to patients."

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