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A small group of staff standing outside the door to the surgical short stay unitWexham Park Hospital’s £49m new emergency assessment centre (EAC) has welcomed its first patients.

The medical and surgical short stay units on the second floor of the building officially opened on Saturday 23 February.

They provide short periods of care for patients who are expected to be ready to be discharged within 72 hours, or up to 96 hours for surgical patients.

Commissioning of the state-of-the-art EAC continues in March with the opening of 24-hour assessment and treatment services on the first floor, and the building will be fully occupied when a range of A&E services transfer on 3 April.

Bringing these disciplines together under one roof increases collaboration between doctors, nurses and clinical teams so that patients, who are increasingly presenting with multiple, complex conditions, can get faster access to the right treatment.

A different group of staff standing in a waiting area of the new EACNine surgical and six medical patients were transferred from the main hospital to the short stay units on Saturday, with more patients arriving via the Slough hospital’s emergency department over the weekend.

One patient admitted to the 16-bed surgical short stay unit on Monday morning was full of praise for the unit’s staff, environment and the care he received.

He said: “I came into the emergency department at about 10am and within about two hours I was in a bed, seen and sorted out.”

Senior charge nurse Michele Pistillo said: “The patients love the environment and the staff are so happy to work here. I cannot wait to see A&E and other services go live because I’m sure the patients and the community will see a lot of benefits in terms of care and waiting times.

“In the past, sharing care between medical and surgical teams was more difficult. Now patients have both units on the same floor so they can have a faster review. Even the connection between the medical and surgical teams will be better.

A view of teh outside of the new building“We had a patient who arrived via A&E at 10.30am on Sunday. He was assessed, had a small theatre procedure and went home again at 4.30pm. That is amazing patient care.”

In the 34-bed medical short stay unit, consultant in acute medicine Bethan Graf said the move into the new building went very smoothly and patient feedback had been very positive.

She said: “They love the views the building offers and they are impressed by how spacious and quiet it is. However, we know that although patients love the new unit, they would much rather be at home and our new way of working will help us to facilitate this.”

Developer Kier began building the EAC in April 2017 and successfully delivered the project on time and to budget. It was officially handed to Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Wexham Park Hospital, at the end of January.

The £49m investment, the biggest at Wexham Park since the hospital was built, is replacing and consolidating the much older emergency department and other urgent care services.

New patient pathways have been developed to make care more efficient and allow patients to be cared for more quickly in the right place. For example patients may be brought directly to a ward via a GP without going to A&E or be given necessary tests and medication during the day so they can safely return home without needing to be admitted to a ward.

The new building sits at the main entrance to the hospital. Despite its size, its impact is lessened by a screen of trees that shields it from the main road. 

It is the second major construction project at Wexham Park following a £10m upgrade to maternity and gynaecology services, officially opened by Strictly Come Dancing star Anton Du Beke in January 2018.