London will receive £12.6 million to expand and upgrade A&Es at two Trusts, ensuring they have the physical space to treat patients, manage patient flow and improve infection control, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced today.
This is in addition to the £300 million announced recently for 117 Trusts to upgrade their facilities, meaning the Government has now invested £450 million to upgrade A&Es this winter.
The funding will expand waiting areas and increase the number of treatment cubicles, helping boost A&E capacity by providing additional space and reducing overcrowding. Projects will be completed by the start of next year so hospitals benefit from the upgrades during the peak of winter.
Alongside this, a new offer to patients is being piloted in Trusts across England, with NHS 111 being the first point of contact for accessing urgent medical care.
To ensure patients get the right care in the right place and avoid unnecessary visits to Emergency Departments, NHS 111 will build on its role during the pandemic to direct patients to the most clinically appropriate service, including Emergency Departments, an Urgent Treatment Centre, a GP or mental health professional.
Based on what works best during the pilots, this approach will be rolled out to all Trusts from December this year.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“We are investing £450 million to make sure our A&E departments are ready for winter. Hospitals around the country will be able to expand and upgrade to ensure they can continue safely treating patients in the coming months.
“During the peak of the pandemic we saw millions of people using NHS 111 to get the best possible advice on Covid-19, and other urgent NHS services. These pilots will build on this and test whether we can deliver quicker access to the right care, provide a better service for the public and ensure our dedicated NHS staff aren’t overwhelmed.
“We all need to play our part by washing our hands regularly, using a face covering and keeping our distance from those not in our household. We are determined to protect the NHS as we did during the peak.”
NHS 111 will also book appointments for patients with the appropriate service to cut out unnecessary queueing and ensure they get the right care first time. This will be safer and more convenient for patients as it will reduce the amount of time spent in waiting rooms.
Those facing a life-threatening emergency should continue to dial 999 immediately. If someone is unsure how serious a condition is then NHS 111 can offer advice and if necessary, dispatch an ambulance.
To support this expansion the NHS is investing £24 million to increase 111 call handling capacity and will have more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance.
Each year there are 14.4 million A&E attendances in England that arrive without referral by 111, a GP or in an ambulance, as well as 2.1 million attendances that don’t result in any admission or treatment. Reducing this unnecessary use of Emergency Departments will ease the pressure on the NHS this winter and reduce transmission of Covid-19.