Emergency doctors are travelling to patients’ homes in a bid to cut the numbers of people using accident and emergency services in Mile End and Whitechapel.
Barts Health NHS Trust, which includes Mile End Hospital and The Royal London Hospital, has teamed up with the London Ambulance Service and London Air Ambulance to deliver remote hospital care, seven days a week.
Formally launched on Monday (October 9), the remodelled Physician Response Unit (PRU) will enable approximately 50 more patients to be treated every day and ease the strain on NHS services. In trials, 70 per cent of patients avoided the need to be taken to hospital.
The units will support emergency care in the key areas of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and the City of London, as well as in north, central and east London, from 8am-8pm every day.
The vehicles will have a senior doctor and ambulance clinician on board, equipped with the same medication, treatments and equipment found in hospitals. Patients will be able to have treatments including blood tests with instant results, urine tests, and sutures. The units’ additional features include instant access to patient records to support treatment and reduce the need to go to hospital.
The PRUs are provided by the London Ambulance Service, and although they have been in operation for 15 years, this is the first time that they will be operating for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to funding from a £300,000 NHS Vanguard grant.
Dr Tony Joy, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Barts Health NHS Trust and Clinical Lead for the Physician Response Unit, told the Evening Standard: “The helicopter is the Gucci part of being an emergency doctor. The PRU is the Marks and Spencer.
“It’s what you want on every high street. It’s for day-to-day emergencies. Being hit by a car or being shot is hopefully not even a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for most people. What we want is to support general 999 care.”
For many patients, the PRU service will eliminate the problems associated with staying in hospital. Figures from the London Ambulance Service show that patients over 80 years old suffer from a 40 per cent muscle loss for every 10 days they spend on bed rest. With the increased use of the PRUs, patients can recover in their own homes and thus reduce the risk of falls, skin damage and associated infection.
Dr Joy also told the Evening Standard: “I can’t see any reason why this model can’t spread. My hope over the coming years is that there is a PRU operating out of emergency departments all over London and further afield.”
Information on the new PRU units can be found here.