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Right Arrow New unit helps keep hospital beds free
03 May 2006 at 13:34

Most people probably think there are only three ways patients come to be in hospital – via Accident & Emergency, as an outpatient or as a planned inpatient. Since July last year, Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust have added a fourth – the Clinical Decision Unit (CDU).

In the past when a patient was referred by their GP to the hospital, they usually had to wait their turn at the A&E Department. Now they are seen at the CDU. Sometimes this can be for a simple test or examination that the GP cannot perform at their surgery through lack of resources or equipment, or it can be to treat more seriously ill patients.

Mark Bennett, Nurse Consultant at the CDU explained more about its role; “The unit relies upon senior doctors and nurses who are committed to providing prompt high quality care. The aim of the CDU is to provide a unit where patients can have tests or be observed, assessed and treated without necessarily having to be admitted as an inpatient. Sometimes they have come in themselves via A&E, but mainly they are referred by their GP. Since we opened in July over 30% of patients are discharged from the unit rather than having to be admitted and waiting for the same tests as an inpatient. Obviously this frees up beds on the wards for other patients.

“We work closely in collaboration with our colleagues around the hospital and in primary care to provide care for patients in the most appropriate place, often as an alternative to hospital admission.”

The patient’s view
Robert Johnson, 69, a retired fireman from Marshside, Southport went to his GP at 9.30 in the morning with pains in his leg. His GP thought he needed further investigation so telephoned the CDU. An hour later Mr Johnson was being seen by a nurse in the CDU.

“I was then seen by two different doctors,” explained Mr Johnson, “a junior one and a more senior one, and they have said I need to have a scan on my leg. They’ve made an appointment for me for next Tuesday and given me some tablets to take until then. It’s been really good, I’ve been seen very quickly, had all the test done that they can, and everyone has been very friendly.” Mr Johnson was discharged later that afternoon.