Britain’s first accident and emergency (A&E) unit for the elderly is to open at an NHS hospital, in an effort to speed up patients’ assessment and treatment.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will invite patients over the age of 80 to use a different unit, next to the existing A&E, staffed by geriatrics specialists.
The unit will liaise with social services to check that people who need help at home are not instead admitted to a ward. Older people’s health can decline during hospital stays, making it harder to return to living independently.
“For older patients, we know that the earlier we can assess them, the quicker we can get them back to full health, helping them to regain their independence and avoid hospital admission,” Frankie Swords, head of medicine at the hospital, said.
Approximately one in seven patients visiting Norfolk and Norwich A&E are aged over 80. The hospital believes a dedicated service could cut delays and improve care.
“Norfolk is home to one of the largest populations of older people in the country, which is continuing to grow at a fast rate,” Martyn Patel, a consultant for older people’s medicine, told the Norwich Evening News.
“This means we’ve got to do something no one else has done to ensure our older patients receive the best care most appropriate to their needs in a timely manner.”
UK Hospitals are facing pressures to clear beds in preparation for winter after a strained social care system led to thousands more people being stuck on wards.
However, the attempt to free up hospital beds has caused concerns that some patients are rushed home before they are ready.
Emergency re-admissions to hospital are up by a fifth in the past five years, with more than half a million patients back within a month of being discharged.
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