Earlier this week, it was announced that the Great Western Hospital has secured £26 million to begin work on an expansion to the A&E department. This is fantastic news.
The money represents the biggest ever investment to the hospital site. Robert Buckland MP and I lobbied Ministers directly, we absolutely understood the importance of our local NHS services. To secure this funding was essential.
The GWH opened 20 years ago and was designed to care for 48,000 people a year. Since then, Swindon’s population has increased significantly, and the department now sees over 100,000 people a year. This expansion will not only greatly improve emergency healthcare in Swindon and will meet the demands of a growing population.
Last year, we welcomed the opening of the new Urgent Treatment Centre, which will link directly to the expanded A&E department. This will allow flow between the two and will ensure that patients can get the care that best suits their clinical need.
The plans will bring a number of units together into one big space, including the Children’s Emergency Department, the Paediatric Assessment Unit, major incidents, and resuscitation. Some of these units will be relocated from other areas in the hospital, which will in turn free up more space for more beds and other departments.
I am delighted that the work can now begin on this exciting venture. The new A&E department will mean that staff are better able to meet the increase in demand and people can get the right care more quickly – which will improve outcomes for patients.
The NHS has, of course, seen increased pressure on urgent and emergency care over the last few years, with data showing more people attending A&E than ever before and millions of 111 calls being made every month this winter. To meet this demand, help with emergency care, and to reduce waiting times, the Government has published its Urgent and Emergency Care Plan.
One of the key aims of the plan is to increase the NHS workforce. Latest figures for November 2022 show there are record numbers of doctors and nurses in NHS hospitals in England. Compared to a year earlier, there are over 4,800 more doctors and over 10,900 more nurses. Frontline capacity will be boosted further by 800 new ambulances, supported by greater use of student and apprentice paramedics. A long-term workforce plan is to be published which is a once in a generation opportunity to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.
Urgent and emergency care will see capacity increased by 5,000 more beds, backed by a dedicated £1billion fund. The scheme will also ensure that people have a smooth transition out of hospital, reducing the chances of re-admission and reducing long term demand on social care.
Urgent care in the community will be expanded to ensure people get the right care at home without the need for hospital admission. These services will respond to calls normally requiring an ambulance crew – which will mean that people who have fallen or are injured can get care and treatment at home within two hours.
This investment in urgent and emergency care is important as we tackle the current pressures from high flu and Covid cases, along with the pandemic backlog. Going forward, it is vital that the NHS is on a secure long-term footing. The plans laid out this week will address the key issues affecting the NHS and how they can be improved.