Inside Wansbeck Urgent Treatment Centre as cold weather prompts surge in cases

  • Video report by Helen Ford

Plunging temperatures and winter infections are prompting a significant rise in patients attending one of the region's NHS Urgent Treatment Centres (UTC).

Over the past month, up to 150 people every day have been arriving at the unit at Wansbeck General Hospital in Northumberland.

In particular, the severe cold snap has brought a steady stream of patients who have suffered broken bones and other injuries after falling on ice.

Nurse practitioner Lisa Hall told ITV Tyne Tees: "Typically we've got a lots of slips, trips and falls.

"Lots of broken bones, which tends to be our bread and butter for urgent care."

Ms Hall said that was coupled with patients suffering respiratory problems as well as parents worried their children may have contracted the Strep A infection.

"We have a lot of chest complaints, coughs, colds, lots of little ones with fevers - parents are obviously worried given the current climate with throat infections."

Nurse practitioner Lisa Hall talks a patient through the next steps of treatment. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Aside from the current wave of winter-related issues, the UTC in Ashington has seen a steady growth in the number of patients it sees each day.

Staff said a few years ago, daily attendances were generally around 100 people.

At the start of December 2022, the figure topped 150 patients in a single day.

The NHS is urging patients to attend the treatment centre best suited to their needs. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

At a time of such demand, the NHS is keen to explain the role of UTCs and how they fit into the wider picture of care.

Urgent Treatment Centres provide on-the-day care for serious but not life threatening conditions including:

  • Suspected fractures and broken bones

  • Ear and throat infections

  • Minor head injuries

  • High temperatures

  • Minor scalds and burns

Source: NHS

in Northumberland, life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks and stroke are dealt with at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.

At a time of such demand, one doctor told me it is vital that people attend the service best suited to their needs, not only to reduce pressure on A&E but also to ensure the speediest treatment.

Dr Julian Coffey, head of urgent care across Northumberland and North Tyneside, said: "We know that in our Urgent Treatment Centres we see the same numbers that are seen in our local A&E department so if we weren't here as part of that system,  A&E numbers would double.

Dr Coffey added: "When you think about those sorts of numbers you understand that getting it right, getting the right patient in the right place is so important."

Patient Charlie came to the Urgent Treatment Centre after a footballing accident. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

For young patient Charlie, his visit to Wansbeck General Hospital's UTC ended happily.

He arrived in pain, accompanied by his mother, after hurting himself while playing football.

After being fitted with medical footwear, Charlie was able to leave, safe in the knowledge that he can look forward to Christmas.

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