A NEW clinic dedicated to treating children outside of GP surgery hours is being trialled at the Carfax NHS Medical Centre in the town centre.

The service, staffed by nurses experienced in dealing with children, is open from 5pm to 8pm Monday through to Friday.

It is aimed at youngsters, toddlers and infants suffering from common colds, aches or pains but not life-threatening conditions.

Any parent or carer who believes their child should see a health practitioner immediately can call the clinic and make an appointment, following a phone assessment.

The pilot scheme run by the Carfax Health Enterprise and social enterprise SEQOL aims to save families from making unnecessary trips to the emergency department at the Great Western Hospital.

The centre will allow parents to book late afternoon appointments if they cannot see their GP that day.

Jan Trethewey, customer experience director at SEQOL, said: “It’s really for children who are unwell, have a temperature, a cold, or an earache for example when they come out of school. Parents can’t always get a doctor’s appointment after school because they are all booked up.

“It can be quite frightening when your child has a temperature and you are not sure if you need to see a doctor. A call handler will book an appointment for them but if they wish to speak to a nurse, we will arrange for one to call them back.”

The clinic will be piloted until May when Swindon’s Clinical Commissioning Group, which funds the project, will decide whether to continue running it.

It is hoped the service will help alleviate pressure on A&E staff this winter as an increasing number of patients are admitted to hospital year on year not only in Swindon but nationally.

Despite a well-publicised campaign launched in 2011 urging patients to ‘choose well’, promoting alternatives to the emergency department to prevent further clogging up of the service, many people still see the hospital as their first port of call out of hours.

They also wrongly assume they will be seen quicker at the A&E.

The new clinic would offer another option to families alongside the many already available to them.

“It’s important that people are aware of the local healthcare services available and choose well,” said a Great Western Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman.

“Some people wrongly assume that if they turn up to the emergency department they will be seen more quickly – however, we treat patients in order of clinical need, therefore if your condition is not critical or life-threatening you could be waiting a long time.

“It is estimated that at least one in four people attending the emergency department could be treated more quickly and effectively elsewhere, for example at a local pharmacy, their GP or outside of normal GP surgery opening hours, the Swindon Walk-In Centre on Carfax Street or the Urgent GP/Nurse Centre on the Great Western Hospital site.”

Call the clinic on 01793 646466.