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The Accident and Emergency department at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) sees on average around 45,000 people each year.  The busy department which opened in 2015 during phase 1 of the redevelopment operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is for major, life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

The doctors and nurses in A&E are highly trained in emergency medicine and have access to equipment and treatments for life threatening conditions. While in A&E, a doctor or nurse will assess a patient’s condition and decide on further action using a system called clinical triage. This means that people with more serious conditions will be treated before those with minor complaints.  

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) has recently invested £6 million in the Accident and Emergency Departments at both the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital as part of its urgent and emergency care improvement plan.

The investment was made to maintain safety in the department and has enabled NCIC to increase the nursing and medical workforce to meet the significant rise in demand for the department over the last few years.   

Dr Emma Farrow is an emergency medicine consultant at NCIC. She said:

“Over the last 10 years we have seen a 25% increase in demand for our services.  Since last year, we have already made a lot of improvements in our processes and are starting to see the impact of this but the additional funding will make sure we can provide the excellent services we want to.

“We are always looking at new ways of attracting more people to work in emergency medicine, including recently attending the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s annual conference in Belfast. In addition, we have been training more of our team to be advanced clinical practitioners who can work to the same level as a middle grade doctor.”

In recent years the department in Whitehaven has also improved its provision for children with a separate paediatric waiting area which is staffed by specialist paediatric nurses.  This development has improved the care children receive in the department and has enriched the relationship between Safeguarding teams, Children’s ward and A&E. 

The Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC) unit is also now well established at WCH. The £1.5 million unit which has been successfully running at the site since March 2020 has reduced the number of people who need to be admitted to hospital. SDEC is the provision of same day care for emergency patients who would otherwise be admitted to hospital. Patients can be triaged to SDEC from A&E if appropriate.  The positive effect SDEC has had on the staff and patients at WCH is event with one patient commenting: 

“A big thank you to the staff on the SDEC unit and other departments who assisted in my quick and professional care this week. I never knew this unit even existed and can see how important it is to getting people assessed quickly and therefore reduce admissions.”

The Emergency department has also recently opened the Rapid Assessment & Triage unit which allows for the Ambulance service to take the sickest patients to a separate unit where they will be seen quickly before being given a course of action. This reduces the time ambulances are kept waiting at the hospital and helps those with the greatest need be seen first. 

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The team in A&E are highly skilled in emergency medicine and are well placed to determine the right course of action for a patient attending A&E, this will be different for each patient who presents. A patient might need urgent, lifesaving treatment and this will be given by the team at A&E. Another patient might be best placed in the SDEC unit, or one of the wards within the hospital. Alternatively some patients might be asked to refer back to their GP if their condition is not life threatening.  

The team are always on hand if you need them, however they do ask the public to consider a sensible course of action for their condition and would ask that you consider 111, your local pharmacy, GP or Urgent Treatment Centre if your condition is not life threatening.

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