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How can we take pressure off A&E if community services are not there?

February 10, 2014 6:30 PM

Cwm Taf Health Board have, along with other Health Boards across Wales, been running a campaign called "Choose well" to try and encourage patients to seek help from the most appropriate place and take the pressure off over stretched hospitals.

As the website states:

"Choose Well will help you decide if you need medical attention if you get sick. It explains what each NHS service does, and when it should be used. Choosing Well means that you and your family will get the best treatment. It also allows busy NHS services to help the people who need them most."

This includes trying to redirect people to their pharmacist, GP, Minor Injury Units, or out of hours service. All very sensible advice to try and keep A&E departments for those who really need them.

However, the system starts to fall apart when the community services are not actually there to back it up.

The Minor Injuries Unit at Llwynypia for example only works on quite limited hours, and people need to ring to make an appointment before attending - not something you want to do when you have cut your finger and it is bleeding profusely, or twisted your ankle and want to check if it is broken.

The out of hours emergency service is indeed very useful in many instances, but again it is limited, and people are phoning only to be told there are no appointments available.

As for GPs surgeries, then most are not geared up to treat accidents or injuries, and their hours are limited. In fact they are to become even more limited when the withdrawal of funding from April 1st means some who were holding early morning, evening and Saturday clinics will no longer be doing so.

A series of meetings across South Wales and Powys will feedback on Thursday 13th February on plans for a reorganisation of services including severe trauma care. This may see the removal of consultant led A&E services form the Royal Glamorgan.

We have argued all along that before that can happen the back up services in the community have o be in place. We are all for patients being directed to where they can be most effectively treated, but the alternatives all have to be in place. At the moment they certainly are not.

Karen Roberts

Campaign Manager RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats.