Patients warned of changes being made to urgent care centres to cope with winter demands

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

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Changes are being made to urgent care centres to help NHS staff cope with an expected busy winter.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is introducing the temporary measures to allow urgent and emergency care nursing staff to be in the right places.

From December 1, the opening times of the urgent care centres at North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham general hospitals will change from 24 hours a day to 8am to midnight, seven days a week.

Officials say the move is part of the plans for the winter months while use of the centres has been minimum, with on average less than ten overnight attendances at the three facilities combined.

Since The Northumbria hospital opened in Cramlington last June, there has been an average of four overnight attendances at both North Tyneside and Wansbeck, and two at Hexham.

There has also been 12 days of no attendances at North Tyneside, 19 days at Wansbeck and 83 days with no visitors at Hexham.

As a result, the trust has decided the nursing staff can be used at the Northumbria hospital instead for at least the next three months.

Officials are holding meetings with staff and working closely with staff side representatives to ensure nurses affected by this temporary measure are redeployed appropriately.

Any patients in North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham who need urgent help overnight when it is not a serious life threatening emergency, should call NHS 111 which is available 24/7.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Like all parts of the NHS we are making appropriate preparations for winter so that we have the right people, in the right place to support patient care where we have the highest demand on services across the trust.

“We know at this time of year that we will see many more emergency hospital admissions, which now take place at The Northumbria, and this is particularly amongst older people who are most vulnerable to the cold weather conditions and winter viruses which are circulating.

“The numbers of attends overnight at our urgent care centres has been very small since we made our emergency care changes over a year ago and we know that there are other safe out-of-hours arrangements available for patients, via NHS 111, should people in Hexham, North Tyneside or the Wansbeck areas need to speak to a medical professional during the night.

“I am keen to stress that this is a temporary measure to see us through the winter period and means we can maximise the skills of our nurses by putting them into practice where there is most demand – for example we generally see over 40 emergency admissions every single night at The Northumbria hospital.

“As always, our staff have been very understanding and we are working with them to ensure they are redeployed appropriately with arrangements made with any member of staff who is unable to transfer to continue working on their existing hospital site.

“We greatly welcome our staff’s support as we all strive to deliver the very best quality of care for our patients this winter.”

Dr John Matthews, a GP in Wallsend and clinical chair at NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “The trust is taking very sensible steps – albeit as an interim measure – so that nursing staff can be deployed where their skills will be needed most this winter.

“It is important that everyone living in North Tyneside takes responsibility for using their NHS services wisely this winter – a time when we know more people, particularly the frail elderly need emergency hospital care.

“It is vital that we all play a part in keeping these services free for those who need them most.”