Unit in operation for 18 months
A fast-track specialist care unit at Basildon University Hospital has been put in place to reduce admissions, A&E attendances and length of stay for surgical patients.
Since the surgical ambulatory care unit (SACU) was launched 18 months ago, it has seen an average of 400 patients each month. SACU is based in the surgical referrals unit and has recently been upgraded with improved surroundings and facilities for patients, including four comfortable recliner chairs for patients, two assessment rooms and an ultrasound room for on-the-day diagnostics.
The SACU team see surgical patients who require rapid investigation and review but are unlikely to need admission, and post-operative patients who require review but no longer need inpatient care.
They provide follow-up appointments for patients they have seen previously, or patients who have had a hospital stay and help speed up discharges from wards by seeing patients who are ready to go home but may need blood tests or wound checks.
The team also work with A&E to identify patients who could be assessed and treated on the unit, to reduce the time they wait in A&E and avoid them being admitted into the hospital.
Helen Pittman, lead nurse practitioner, said: “We are getting very good feedback from patients. It is a win-win for patients and the hospital because we can reduce waiting, which causes stress, and help keep beds free for patients who really need them.”
One of the first patients to attend the refurbished unit was Mrs Jean Hammond, aged 68, from Billericay, who has had two surgical procedures for gallstones.
Because she has COPD she cannot have surgery to remove her gall bladder, and has a drain fitted in it.
She said: “I am here to see if there are more stones. I understand what the unit does because we have been in four times; every time they have helped me out and I don’t know what I would do without them. I would have to wait a week for a GP appointment.
“We phoned this morning and they said they had a slot. We usually see a doctor and a nurse and we have never gone away disappointed. They are marvellous, I can’t fault them.”
With the NHS stressed to breaking point – staff and management alike are keen to trial and introduce creative ideas to reduce the backlog in both A&E and surgical waiting times.