A NEW clinic dedicated to treating children outside of GP surgery hours has helped to alleviate pressure on A&E since its launch in January.

Between January and May this year, 579 children have been treated by nurses at the service, being trialled at Carfax NHS Medical Centre in the town centre.

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

The clinic, which runs from Monday to Friday between 5pm and 8pm, cares for youngsters, toddlers and infants suffering from common colds, aches or pains but not life-threatening conditions.

Hundreds of parents, who would normally have headed straight for A&E were redirected to the service over the past seven months, taking pressure away from the emergency unit. This has meant much shorter waiting times for many, who may have been forced to sit up to four hours in the emergency department waiting to be seen.

“The aim is to keep children away from A&E,” said SEQOL nurse practitioner Lynne Winwood.

“People who can’t get an appointment with their GP that day, for example if their child is poorly when they pick them up from nursery and school, can call and they will receive advice and guidance from a nurse practitioner.

“If it’s felt necessary they will get an appointment at the clinic.

“We have had children come with tonsillitis, ear infections, allergies.”

The clinic was initially due to be piloted until May but the scheme has now been extended.

Martina Miles, a mother-of-two from Highworth has attended the clinic twice since its opening, both times after croup left her son Oliver in terrible pain.

“I didn’t know it existed until I rang the urgent care and was redirected to the children’s clinic,” said the 35-year-old.

“Oliver had croup; he had suffered with it before so I knew what it was. I did the usual sort of thing to help but I knew he needed to see someone. I got an appointment within 30 minutes.

“As a parent you know when your child is ill and you know you need to seek medical advice but the doctor was not available. It was nice to have people there who specialised in children. It’s reassuring. You can get quite panicky, especially with croup. It’s not very nice at all. He couldn’t breathe and got unsettled.”

Like Martina, many parents and even GPs are still unaware of the new clinic’s existence. And the team is determined to raise awareness of the service and ensure parents have all the tools necessary to keep their child in good health.

Emergency nurse practitioner at Carfax, Sue Cole, added: “It’s a brilliant service and we have had very good feedback. We have cut down the number of people going to A&E but a lot of people still don’t know about it. It needs to be utilised more.”

The clinic can be contacted on 01793 646466.