HOSPITAL bosses say a bigger emergency care unit will help them cope with winter pressures.

Five extra treatment rooms have been added to the ambulatory care and triage service, which is next to Great Western Hospital’s A&E.

Patients are commonly referred to the unit by their GPs, usually suffering from common complaints like deep vein thrombosis and chronic pain. Only one in 10 patients are transferred to a hospital ward, with most of the 9,600 people seen at the unit last year able to go home on the same day.

Neal Aplin, advanced clinical practitioner at GWH, said: “The expansion of our ambulatory care unit will allow us to see patients quicker, minimise delays and improve patient care.

“It will also allow us to better manage the winter pressures with our rapid triage area, whilst maintaining patient safety.”

The number of patients visiting GWH for emergency care has almost doubled since the hospital opened in 2002. The A&E, which was designed to treat around 48,000 patients a year, is now seeing closer to 90,000.

Last week, the government announced it would give GWH a grant of almost £30m to expand the emergency department and develop a new rehabilitation service aimed at supporting patients in their own homes. The project is expected to cost around £45m in total and it could be two or three years before changes are seen at the Marlborough Road site.

As well as expanding the A&E and ambulatory care service, GWH managers will also be extending the urgent care centre from six clinical rooms to 10. The centre, based near the entrance to the hospital, sees around 70 patients a day who need urgent medical attention but do not need to visit A&E.

By reopening the ambulatory care unit, hospital managers say they have also got back 10 bed spaces on the new Dorcan Unit. The ward, which opened in February, had been temporarily taken over by the ambulatory care doctors while their unit was refurbished.

Nerissa Vaughan, chief executive of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “A huge amount of planning has taken place with the whole health and social care system – general practice, community and hospital services and social care – working together to ensure local people receive the best possible care this winter and urgent and ambulatory care is just one of the areas we have been expanding in preparation for the colder months.

“This winter NHS staff in Swindon will be focusing on ensuring patients can leave hospital as soon as they’re well enough, getting more patients assessed, treated and back home on the same day.”