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An NHS panel recommended that Newark’s Urgent Treatment Centre should close permanently overnight despite the public support to keep it open 24 hours.

An NHS panel recommended that Newark’s Urgent Treatment Centre should close permanently overnight despite the public support to keep it open 24 hours.

More than 1,900 Newark residents and stakeholders shared their views and experiences in a listening exercise about future opening hours of Newark Urgent Treatment Centre and experience of out of hours urgent care services.

Their views were gathered by NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire through a series of public meetings and group discussions, a survey and online comments during September and October this year.

Newark Urgent Treatment Centre
Newark Urgent Treatment Centre

About 70.5% of people disagreed or strongly disagreed that the current opening hours are suitable and most people said they would like the Urgent Treatment Centre to be open 24 hours and for an Accident and Emergency Department to be based in Newark.

The Integrated Care Board (ICB) which organises healthcare services, says a decision on the opening hours has not been made yet, however, they will take into consideration the outcome of all the different stages.

The Urgent Treatment Centre is currently open seven day a week from 9am to 10pm, the last appointment being at 9.30pm. These hours have been in place since the pandemic began in March 2020 and exceed the 12-hour minimum national standard for UTCs set by NHS England.

Before the pandemic, the UTC was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, it was often closed overnight at short notice due to lack of staff availability.

Typically, when the UTC was open overnight, it would treat, on average, less than one patient per hour between 10pm and 7am, compared to between four and six patients per hour during the daytime.

Following the change to 13-hour opening, additional staffing was added during the daytime to meet the greater demand.

The feedback from the listening exercise is being considered alongside the recommendations from an independent review of the UTC by medical experts from East Midlands Clinical Senate and a detailed options appraisal.

Clinical Senates help organisations like NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, which plan and buys healthcare services, to make the best decisions for the people who use those services.

Newark Urgent Treatment Centre
Newark Urgent Treatment Centre

The Clinical Senate report recommends that the opening times should be based on activity levels and available staffing to ensure good use of resources. More work should be done to raise awareness about the UTC and the wide range of other NHS services available across the healthcare system in Newark.

Victoria McGregor-Riley, commissioning delivery director at NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, said: “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who took part in our listening exercise. The passion that local people have for their hospital and NHS services was palpable and it was brilliant to hear so much positive feedback about staff, along with some aspects we know we need to improve.

“We are committed to providing high quality, sustainable services to the Newark population and supporting SFH’s vision that Newark Hospital is a valued and vibrant community asset for Newark.

“This is demonstrated through substantial recent, on-going, and future planned investment in new services at Newark Hospital, including a new state-of-the-art operating theatre which opened in November.

“Providing certainty to the people of Newark about the service they can expect from the UTC is vitally important and we remain steadfastly committed to retaining a service which, at the very least, meets the minimum 12-hour standard for UTCs set by NHS England.

“We have collected a large amount of evidence and public feedback on the UTC which will be discussed with a number of external organisations over the coming weeks, and we anticipate we will be in a position to agree the best way forward in the new year.”

Newark UTC is run by Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and provides urgent care and non-life-threatening treatment for injuries or conditions, such as cuts, simple broken bones, wounds, minor burns and minor head, eye and back injuries.

The Urgent Treatment Centre will be discussed by Nottinghamshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee on December 12.

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