New opening hours and a change in access arrangements will come into force at Felixstowe Community Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) from next week.
Patients with minor injuries will still be able to receive treatment at the MIU, but will have to make an appointment to see a member of staff.
New NHS guidelines governing urgent care facilities mean the unit, which is run by the Suffolk GP Federation, will no longer be offering a walk-in service.
The unit’s opening hours are also changing in order to meet current levels of demand, and from this Monday (April 1st), it will be open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
The changes are part of a revamp of local health services by the NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that will also see a brand new frailty clinic based at the hospital in the future.
Due to it being a seaside town, Felixstowe has a higher than average population of frail and elderly people.
When it comes into service, the new proactive frailty clinic will offer outreach and drop-in services and will focus on high-risk ‘frequent fallers’.
It aims to bring together physical and mental health services, social care support and local voluntary and community services to help promote self-care among the frail elderly.
This will enable health professionals to intervene earlier in the care of the town’s elderly to help prevent avoidable A&E admissions.
From Monday, anyone in Felixstowe who suffers a minor injury should call NHS111, where an on-the-day appointment can be arranged for them at the MIU if appropriate.
Currently, local callers to NHS111 wait on average just over a minute to get through to an adviser.
Staff at any of the town’s four GP practices – Walton, The Grove, Howard House or Haven Health – can also book appointments for patients who phone or call in at their surgeries.
Care navigators at all four practices have undergone specialist training to ensure they are aware what constitutes a minor injury and is suitable for referral to the MIU.
Patients may have to wait a short while during busy times. If they have a serious injury that requires immediate attention, they should call 999.
The CCG has been working on the new arrangements at the hospital for the past 10 months.
Numerous meetings have been held with MIU staff, the Suffolk GP Federation, Community Health, the town’s GP practices and local patient representatives.
In December, over 100 members of the public attended two drop-in sessions held to explain the changes and the reasons behind them.
Richard Watson, NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG’s Chief Transformation Officer, said: “New NHS guidelines mean that the MIU can no longer provide a walk-in function.
“However, the necessity for us to make changes to the way the service is accessed to comply with these new guidelines has enabled us to review local health services as a whole.
“At a very early stage we identified a clear need for a proactive frailty clinic for the town due to its significant population of frail elderly people.
“The clinic will be a valuable asset to the town. It will help prevent falls, keep elderly people well and enable them to remain in their homes for longer.
“The assistance of the patient representatives in helping us plan the implementation of the new arrangements and in designing the new frailty clinic services has been invaluable.”
Alan Rose, one of the patient representatives involved in planning the implementation of the changes, said people in the town were disappointed the MIU’s walk-in function was ending.
But he added: “We really appreciate the way in which the CCG, the GP Fed, local practices, NHS 111 and others have worked extremely hard in recent months to address our concerns.
“Considerable effort has been made to ensure that patients should be able to efficiently arrange appointments where appropriate.”
Mr Rose also said he was pleased the town’s elderly population would be getting its own dedicated frailty clinic.
He said: “We know that as we approach old age and become frail our needs may change and we may need particular types of care and support.
“We want our frail elderly population to stay as fit, as active and as healthy as they possibly can.
“The CCG and its partners are planning to improve services for the elderly in Felixstowe which will support this.
“What is being planned will hopefully give older people the particular care they need, when they need it, whether they are living in their own home or a care home.”