New system to allow GPs to fast track referrals

Antrim Area Hospital has established a system to allow GPs to fast track their urgent hospital referrals meaning people can begin treatment a lot quicker and avoid unnecessary waits in the Emergency Department.

Previously, a patient presenting to their GP requiring medical assessment would have been referred to the Emergency Department to be triaged and await admission to the appropriate ward. This meant that frail elderly people and those with long term conditions needing hospital treatment had to present to the Emergency Department which was not appropriate.

Instead, the GP can now speak directly with medical staff at the Assessment Unit to receive specialist advice and, if appropriate, to arrange for a referral to the Unit where treatment can begin immediately. Once in the Assessment Unit patients are either treated and discharged or stabilised and referred to the appropriate ward.

Dr Xavier, Consultant, explained: “When we asked GPs about their concerns they told us they had no alternative for elderly patients and others needing medical assessment than the Emergency Department. The Assessment Unit was then developed in partnership with the GPs and we’ve been delighted with the outcome. Timely access through the GP ensures earlier assessment and treatment which leads to better patient outcomes. The patient journey is also improved as it prevents a visit to the Emergency Department and instead allows treatment to begin as soon as the patient arrives. Feedback from patients and GPs has been very positive and it benefits the flow of the hospital overall by allowing quicker assessment and treatment thereby avoiding longer stays in hospital than necessary.”

The unit is available for general / acute medicine, nephrology, cardiology and diabetes and has seen over 650 people in the last ten months. Of these, 38% were able to be treated and discharged rather than having to stay in hospital and over half of all attendances (254) were aged over 65.

Dr Barney McCoy, Clinical Lead GP Mid-Ulster, commented: “GPs work very hard to treat people in the community and in their homes but when they had concerns about patients they had no alternative but to refer them to the Emergency Department. The Assessment Unit includes a hub where GPs can now seek specialist advice to help them assess the patient and, if they feel further assessment is required, they can directly refer them and avoid the Emergency Department completely. I believe this service is extremely important in ensuring patients are seen by the right person, in the right place, at the right time and I commend the Trust for their commitment to the Unit.”

The Assessment Unit is part of a wider programme of modernisation and reform being undertaken by the Northern Trust. A range of measures are being developed to better meet patient needs and provide appropriate alternatives to the Emergency Department.

Page last updated:09 August 2013