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A new, dedicated ambulatory emergency care unit (AECU) at Frimley Park Hospital is caring for many patients with medical conditions on a day to day basis avoiding the need for an overnight stay.

The unit’s lead consultant, Dr Bethan Graf, explains: “The point of this unit is to avoid unnecessary admissions. Traditionally patients would come to hospital, often via the emergency department, and be admitted to a ward for further tests or investigations.

“But there is lots of evidence now that people get better faster in their own homes, in familiar surroundings. With our new unit, we can organise whatever investigations or tests patients need and even if it means they come back on a daily basis for monitoring or interventions, they can still go home and sleep in their own bed at night and recover quicker.

“It’s the equivalent of our day surgery unit, but for medical patients.”

The new unit houses five assessment rooms, a treatment room with three spaces for patients needing infusions and one trolley space where procedures can be undertaken. Along with a reception/waiting area, toilets, sluice and a kitchen, it is all beautifully decorated providing a calm, welcoming environment for patients and staff alike.

And pagers are available for patients so instead of waiting in the unit for tests results to come through, they can visit the hospital café if they wish and staff will page them when results are known.

The new AECU opened in February this year and is staffed by a dedicated team including a registrar, nurses, medical technical assistant, receptionist and specialist consultant cover. The development of the new service has been recognised in an award from the National NHS Ambulatory Care Network.

Matron Tony Fenby said: “Feedback about the unit has been very positive – it has scored 100% in the Friends and Family test and patients tell us they love it.

“We provide a really good level of care here. With the registrar and sister here every day and the same medical team, we offer a level of continuity and build up a good rapport with our patients. Instead of ending up in a hospital bed, they walk in here knowing they are going home by the evening – it’s so much more reassuring for them.”

Dr Alan Kevern, clinical fellow for acute medicine added: “Our philosophy is that providing the patient is stable and well enough to be treated in our department, we will try to manage everything they need on an ambulatory basis.

“We even have portable cardiac monitors that give live ECG traces so if, for example, someone has a fast heart rate or unusual rhythm, we can keep any eye on them and act accordingly – they don’t necessarily need to be admitted and attached to a fixed heart monitor.”

The team in AECU currently see about 20 patients every day and this is likely to increase with an additional appointment of a nurse practitioner. They work closely with colleagues across the trust in order to treat as many suitable patients as possible on an ambulatory care basis.

Dr Graf added: “We can bring patients in on a daily basis if necessary to make sure they are ok, such as to check whether their medication needs adjusting, or give intravenous antibiotics each day. It is very reassuring for patients and equally it is very reassuring for us.”