Crawley residents more confused than ever where to go for treatment

In an exclusive survey commissioned by Crawley News 24 it has been discovered that there is complete confusion over NHS services in the town with over 70% of people not understanding the fundamental differences between the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) and A&E.

Only last week did we celebrate the refurbishment of the Urgent Treatment Centre at Crawley Hospital.

The £8million pound investment saw a truly inspiring change to the old grubby and dull looking facility.  With a new open space that has brought the centre right up to date, patients now are able to feel more comfortable in a light and airy space.

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BUT, the full confusion of where you should go when you need treatment is actually more apparent than once first thought.

We asked a prominent doctor at Crawley Hospital how people should know where to go when they needed help and his response was shocking: “It’s common sense!” was the response.

Actually it’s not and to understand the problem more we did some surveys, both online and on the street. We asked a series of questions to see what peoples reactions and thoughts would be.

it does feel like a bit of a lottery

The results are alarming.

The questions were all about where would you go for a certain treatment.  Of course every single case is individual and based on many factors so a question would almost have to be an A4 page in length in order to be able to assess and recommend the correct answer…plus the fact you would also need some qualification in medicine to probably answer it, BUT the fact remains that every person has to make a judgement call as to where to go when they need attention.

Here are a couple of the questions;

Question 1: If you fell over and banged your head but did not lose consciousness where should you go?

Two thirds said the UTC and one third said A&E.

Question 2: If you were suffering from stomach pains and needed help where would you go?

This was split 50/50 between the UTC and A&E.

We could go on.  In fact over the ten questions asked every response was split quite alarmingly with over 70% confused as to where they go should for treatment.

there needs to be much clearer education

The NHS has a page that informs people what injuries are for Urgent Care and what are not and some of the injuries listed actually seem to make it even more confusing.  For example the stomach pains question, when we asked people where they would go over half said UTC when in-fact the NHS says this is wrong.

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You can see for yourself here:

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/Emergencyandurgentcareservices/Pages/Minorinjuriesunit.aspx

So it’s not common sense where to go.

And what happens if you make a mistake and go to the wrong place?  You either have to make your way to the right one OR an ambulance gets sent over wasting more time and more money.

Is there a solution?

The NHS obviously does put out guidelines as best they can to as many people as they can advising where people should go for different ailments but with every case so individual there is never any one right answer.

Let’s take broken bones.  According to the CCG the Urgent Treatment Centre handles this, yet according to a doctor it is actually down to which bone you break.  The example we were given was if you broke your ankle then go to UTC but if it is your leg then go to A&E.  So who is right and how is anyone expected to know the right answer?

The CCG said:

“The most common conditions the UTC treat are: sprains and strains, broken bones, minor burns and scalds, minor head and eye injuries, bites and stings. We would always advise that anyone who feels unsure about where to go calls NHS 111, where they will speak to a highly trained advisor who is supported by healthcare professionals.”

But let’s be realistic here.  If you or someone you know fell and broke a bone are you really going to think about calling 111?  Or are you just going to call an ambulance?

The issue is made even more confusing when you look at some of the NHS’s statistics where 40% of patients who attend A&E are discharged requiring no treatment at all.

Step in the UTC which is aimed at relieving the burden of A&E and helping people closer to home.

NHS say:

“We must provide highly responsive urgent care services outside of hospital so people no longer choose to queue in A&E. This will mean providing faster and consistent same-day, every-day access to general practitioners, primary care and community services such as local mental health teams and community nurses for patients with urgent care needs.”

No-one is saying that the UTC isn’t required nor that they don’t do a good job.  But there is a fundamental flaw which needs one simple key ingredient to help it function far better and this is communication.

It is all very well spending £8million on making somewhere look nice but if people don’t have a clue where to go every time they hurt themselves then is it not just more time and money wasted?

Could the issue be around the name as well?  The term “Urgent” perhaps causing more confusion?

Whatever the factors one thing is clear, there needs to be much clearer education to people over what the UTC is for and what A&E is for.

For now though it does feel like a bit of a lottery and all people can do is call 111 and ask for guidance.

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