GP referral unit for minor injuries

Staff discuss plans at Antrim Hospital.
Staff discuss plans at Antrim Hospital.

Emergency nurse practitioners at Antrim Hospital are doing their bit to reduce the number of patients in the waiting room of the Emergency Department.

Since the Direct Assessment Unit opened, hospital admissions have halved.

Referrals to the unit are made by GPs across the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Patients can also be brought directly to the unit by ambulance.

Last Wednesday morning, 30 patients had been treated by emergency nurse practitioners between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm. They have the “ability and authority to diagnose, treat and discharge” patients with minor conditions.

(ENPs) treat minor injuries such as: injuries to upper and lower limbs; broken bones, sprains, bruises and wounds; bites – human, animal and insect; burns and scalds; abscesses and wound infections; minor head injuries; broken noses and nosebleeds; foreign bodies in the eyes and nose.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust says: “ENPs are totally accountable for the patients they treat. They are able to assess, diagnose, develop treatment plans and discharge or refer appropriately without reference to a doctor.

“ENPs can order and interpret x-rays and can refer patients to other clinics or hospitals if necessary.

“This means those who attend the emergency department with minor injuries do not wait in the same queue as those who are critically unwell.”

Some may be required to return the following day.

GPs can also speak directly with medical staff at the unit to receive specialist advice.