HEALTH bosses are to open a new minor injuries unit at the Royal Infirmary in a bid to beat excessive waiting times in accident and emergency.
It is more than a year since NHS Lothian last met the target of seeing 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours.
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The new unit, located next to A&E, is due to open in January at a cost of £3.8 million over two years and will work in the same way as the existing minor injuries unit at the Western General Hospital.
It will have its own dedicated entrance, at least six treatment bays, one treatment room and a plaster room, plus a separate reception and waiting area.
Patients will be encouraged to “self refer” directly to the new unit when they arrive at the hospital rather than going through A&E.
NHS Lothian said in 2008, staff in A&E would expect to treat around 296 patients in an average day, with around 80,000 presentations each year. Over the last decade, that figure has surged to as many as 400 patients each day and last year 119,206 patients were reviewed and assessed.
The new unit is designed to provide an interim solution while other permanent options are put in place.
NHS Lothian last met the four-hour target for A&E on October 29, 2017. Since then more than 38,000 patients have had to wait more than four hours in A&E in Lothian hospitals.
Announcing the new unit in a statement to staff, NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison said: “You may already be aware of the sustained and focused work underway across NHS Lothian to help improve our performance against the four-hour waiting time standard for emergency care.
“I’m delighted to say that work is already under way to build a new Minor Injuries Unit which will help relieve some of the pressure on the Emergency Department and reduce over-crowding.”
He said A&E waiting times for the last month showed a trend of better performance.
Later he said: “The new minor injuries unit makes perfect sense for patients and staff. The numbers of patients coming through the front door at the infirmary is growing year on year.
“Last year our hard working teams assessed and treated 119,206 patients in the Emergency Department (ED). But we know that many of those patients can be effectively and safely treated in a dedicated unit for minor injuries, rather than in the ED.
“It will mean a swifter treatment time for those patients and also free up expert staff and resources for patients who have sustained life-threatening injuries or conditions.”
The creation of the new unit was hailed as “a good move” by Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs.
He said: “This is a welcome development. The more of these out-of-hours services we can have the better. An increasing number of people are turning up at A&E. Hopefully this will be another chance for people to see the right professional at the right time.”