Alternative pathway into Antrim Area Hospital for patients

The Direct Assessment Unit (DAU) at Antrim Area Hospital is now taking referrals for care of the elderly patients. Staff in the DAU can now give advice to GPs and assess general medicine, nephrology, cardiology and diabetes patients, as well as frail elderly people who require a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA). GPs can speak directly to medical staff and refer patients for treatment and care in the Unit, as an alternative to them having to go to the Emergency Department.   

This avoids unnecessary waits and ensures patients are treated in the most suitable place to get the care they need.  The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service can also refer directly to DAU. Patients that do not need to be seen urgently on that day, can also be referred to a Rapid Access Medical Clinic where they are given an appointment to attend the next day at a specific time.

The DAU is open from 9am until 8pm (patients arriving before 6.00pm) Monday to Friday. It is located in the old emergency department and consists of flexible clinical space for trolleys and chairs depending on patient need and also facilities to care for patients who require isolation.

An initial assessment is carried out by nursing staff and then a doctor sees all patients and a plan of care is developed for them. Patients are either treated and discharged or stabilised and referred to the appropriate ward. In June 2016, 183 of the 270 people seen were treated and discharged while 85 were admitted into the hospital and 2 people were transferred to other services. The DAU includes staff from a range of areas such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers.

Ryan Cherry, a doctor in the DAU said, “The Unit was developed in partnership with GPs and we would encourage all of them to refer to it when appropriate, particularly care of the elderly patients.  Access through the GP ensures people are seen quickly, get the appropriate care which leads to better patient outcomes.  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.”

Anne Lynn recently attended the DAU. She was feeling unwell and went to her GP who rang an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital. She came into the DAU and was able to get seen by a doctor straight away and then met with a member of the specialised team for her condition. A scan and further investigations were arranged immediately and she was admitted to the hospital directly from the DAU.

She said “I was really happy with how fast I was seen. It was unbelievable.”

An 81 year old woman from Newtownabbey was also delighted with the care she received in the DAU. She said, “I am a diabetic and was feeling unwell for 3-4 weeks. I was at the diabetes clinic and after this my daughter decided to ring my GP for some extra tests to be arranged.

“My GP appointment was at 11am and the test results came back at 3pm. My GP rang me and said I had to go to the Unit at the hospital the next morning. My time to come was 10am and I was seen before this time. I had an xray and different tests done and treatment was started straightaway. I was feeling much better once I had treatment in the Unit and I was glad that something was being done.

“All the staff in the Unit were lovely and it was a great experience going there.”

The DAU is part of a wider programme of modernisation and reform by the Northern Trust to develop alternative paths into hospital and to improve care for all our patients and clients.

Pictured at the Direct Assessment Unit at Antrim Area Hospital is Anne Lynn with Hilda Richmond, Nursing Auxiliary and Deborah Turner, Staff Nurse

Page last updated:15 July 2016