Health minister Lord Warner today launched a new discussion document asking how urgent care services can be improved in the future to deliver a better patient experience.
The white paper Our health, our care, our say: a new direction for community services promised to develop a framework within which primary care trusts and local authorities could work to provide urgent care. The discussion document published today is the next stage in that process.
Lord Warner said:
'Thanks to extra investment and reform, we have already been able to give people a wider range of NHS services that can provide urgent care. As well as getting an appointment quickly at a GP practice or going to a hospital A&E department, people can use NHS Direct, NHS walk-in centres and a range of other primary care services.
'People have told us that they want more convenient local health and social care services. They want to be sure that when they need care, it will be available quickly and close to home. They want to know that they can get the advice and care that will keep them safe. We need to ensure that the different urgent care services fit together well and provide effective triage for people when they contact them.
They also need to be properly integrated with A&E services so people know what to expect.
'Locally it makes sense to look at the range of services available in each health and social care community and grasp the opportunities offered to provide better, faster, more accessible care for people. That's why now is the time for a wider discussion with the NHS on these issues'.
Urgent care incorporates services including:
- GP practices
- NHS Direct
- NHS Walk-in Centres
- minor injuries units
- local out-of-hours primary care services
- ambulance services
- community social services where these are needed urgently
- crisis resolution teams (for mental health users)
Direction of travel for urgent care: A discussion document
People's expectations of health and social care are changing. People want to be sure that when they need care, it will be available quickly and close to or in their own homes. They want to feel that they can get the advice and care that will keep them safe. At the same time, changes in medical technologies, in IT and in the NHS and social care workforce are making it possible to seek ways of providing care differently.
Locally it makes sense to review the range of services available in each health and social care community and grasp the opportunities offered through changing technologies to provide better, faster, more accessible care for people.
We want to develop services that are more responsive to people, more efficient in the way resources are deployed and make the most of opportunities from medical and technological advances to deliver better care and support more conveniently for people.
This means a consistent way of assessing what people need when they contact services with an urgent care need, whether by telephone or in face-to-face settings. It may mean changing the way services are configured locally, re-deploying existing resources for optimal care.
Understanding how people access urgent and emergency care will helop commissioners and providers shape services in a way that best responds to changing local needs and the changing healthcare environment.
We have already carried out some discussions with stakeholders. We have used that discussion to produce a Direction of Travel for Urgent Care.
This document asks for views on how we should take our thinking forward.
You can fill in the questionnaire in the attached RTF document and either return it by e-mail, or send a hard copy by post.
The deadline for submitting comments is 5 January 2007.
Questionnaires should be sent either by email or by post to:
Urgent Care Strategy Team
Room 3N34 Quarry House
MB Urgent Care Policy@dh.gsi.gov.uk