HUNDREDS of patients in Gwent have been treated during the first weeks of a new urgent primary care service designed to cut inappropriate attendances at emergency departments and minor injuries units.

The new service launched by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has the ultimate aim of ensuring as many people as possible seek help at the most appropriate health venue at the first time of asking.

Under the new service, patients who turn up at, for instance, the emergency department at the new Grange University Hospital, or minor injuries units at the Royal Gwent, Nevill Hall and other health board hospitals, are being redirected to one of two new urgent primary care centres if their conditions are not deemed serious enough to be treated at their first port of call.

The new urgent primary care centres are based at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall Hospitals.

And the new service is now also being supported by a 'phone first' system - to become fully operational in January - which allows patients themselves to phone ahead, using the existing 111 service, to be triaged and directed to the most appropriate location.

The urgent primary care centres are open 24/7, and staffed by GPs with nurse practitioners, and the aim is to add mental health practitioners and physiotherapists as the service becomes more established.


The service is part of a Wales-wide plan to improve urgent primary care, and is in line with the health board's Clinical Futures programme, which has as key aims bringing care closer to home, and enabling patients to pursue a 'right place, first time' approach to seeking treatment.

For many years, far too many people have attended hospital emergency departments inappropriately, seeking treatment that would better be provided elsewhere.

"The population clearly understands which service to access for life threatening illnesses or injuries," states a health board report.

"However, it is also clear that this can be used as a default choice for many people unsure where to turn when they need urgent care or advice.

"This was confirmed during a recent GP audit undertaken with the Royal Gwent Hospital in October/November 2019, indicating that up to 30 per cent of walk-in presentations [at the emergency department] could be dealt with appropriately by primary care practitioners."

In Gwent, the opening of the Grange University Hospital means the physical location for treating emergencies has changed and there are also two new minor injuries units - and the latter are also a source of inappropriate attendances.

The urgent primary care centre at the Royal Gwent - in the old children's assessment unit, close to the minor injuries unit - opened in November, on the day the Grange also opened, and has taken redirected patients from the latter and from minor injuries units.

Nick Wood, the health board's executive director of primary, community and mental health, said more than 250 people had been redirected there during the first three weeks of operation, mainly from the Royal Gwent's minor injuries unit, and from Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr in Ystrad Mynach, though redirections from the Grange are beginning to increase.

The Nevill Hall urgent primary care centre opened for redirected patients on December 15, the same day a small scale 'phone first' service was introduced to enable patients to check where best to seek help before perhaps attending at the wrong place.

Full first year costs for running a two-centre urgent primary care service is more than £1.3m, and the new service will be evaluated prior a decision being made over longer term provision.

Almost £500,000 has been provided by the Welsh Government to fund a 'phone first' service on a six-month, pilot basis.