THE majority of patients who go to A&E could well be seen in the Urgent Care Centre, according to centre matron Jo Boyd.

While many people still see A&E as their first port of call in any medical emergency or when they are unable to book an appointment with their GP, other services like the Urgent Care Centre, next door to A&E at Great Western Hospital, could provide them with the help they need.

A total of 2,360 people attended the Urgent Care Centre, run by social enterprise SEQOL, in May compared to 1,145 the previous year.

Last winter, the most challenging in history for the hospital, saw 27,565 people attend A&E between October and December.

Many were then referred back to the urgent care service and could have avoided a protracted wait if they had gone to the nurse-led centre immediately.

While urgent and serious conditions may require emergency care, sore throats or abdominal pain can be easily treated at the centre.

“Patients who could be seen by their GP but maybe have had difficulty getting an appointment should be the ones coming here,” Jo said.

“The hospital will also refer them to us and between peak times we even have a nurse present in A&E who identifies patients and sees whether it would be more appropriate for them to be seen here.

“When you are unwell and a child is unwell it’s difficult to know what is urgent or an emergency and there is a very thin line. But we try to educate patients when they come in.”

The Urgent Care Centre runs several services.

As well as the 24/7 walk-in clinic, it operates an out-of-hours GP service which is open from 6.30pm to 8am and has a dedicated phone line – 01793 646466 – the equivalent of 111 in the rest of the country.

It also includes a rapid response team which cares for people in the community and three specialist pathways: The deep-vein thrombosis, male acute urinary retention and cellulitis services.

It was previously known as the Clover Unit.

Hstorically many patients were admitted to A&E, then on to a ward and kept in hospital for several days, the Urgent Care Centre has allowed the majority to be treated in a few hours then go home.

The elderly especially can then receive additional help from the rapid response team at home.

“It’s about being treating the right condition in the right place and at the right time,” said Jo. “We make sure people are seen quickly and in the most appropriate place.

“We find when patients are sent to the urgent care centre from A&E, they actually come straight here the next time.”