ALL hands are already on deck at the Great Western Hospital to help staff cope with an expected surge in A&E admissions over the winter.

Last year was the most challenging winter on record for the hospital, which saw 27,565 people attend A&E between October and December, with 4,941 emergency admissions.

Overall admissions increased by four per cent in 2013-2014 .

A total of 7,041 patients have been to A&E since the start of April, and an array of new measures are being explored to cope with ever-growing demand this winter.

So far 138 new nurses and midwives have been recruited, as well as three consultants and 12 extra nurses for the emergency department. Two care for the elderly consultants will also join the hospital in September.

The A&E department was also refurbished last year and its capacity was increased.

“It has got busier across the NHS as a whole and we have an aging population across the UK and a growing population,” said Dr Liz Price, the associate medical director for unscheduled care at GWH. “And Swindon is growing faster than the surrounding area. “The other issue is that older people are living longer and are living with chronic medical illnesses. The UK as a whole has been slow in keeping up with this.

“We anticipate a busy winter and we are working hard to make sure we have staff in place to support that.

“The Emergency Department is a much better working environment and we have more capacity.”

The hospital launched the ambulatory service three years ago to allow emergency patients to bypass A&E altogether, if they are referred. The emergency department staff can also simply transfer patients to the day service for care. This has already helped to ease pressure on A&E and the hospital is hoping to increase the number of patients seen by the service from about 20 to 35 a day.

An Urgent Care Centre is also available at the hospital for people unable to make an appointment with their GP.

Last year £102.4m was spent by the Clinical Commissioning Group, which buys health services for Swindon, on GWH and a further £1.2m Government grant was given to the town to ease winter pressures. A new bid for additional funding for the coming winter is about to be made .

The CCG is also on the verge of piloting SUCCESS centres, or acute GP walk-ins, ahead of winter to offer increased acute care in the community.

Gill May, an executive nurse at the CCG said the body would take every possible step to meet increased demand for treatment this winter.

She said: “During the last winter, NHS Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group commissioned a number of schemes to improve patient care and reduce the pressure on the health service locally such as the urgent GP/nurse centre at Great Western Hospitals, and the children’s health clinic at Carfax Medical Centre.

“Such schemes maintained the level of emergency attendances in the normal range of 120-150 a day during the winter peak months, by seeing over 500 patients a month who would otherwise have gone to the emergency department.”