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New Orthopaedic Assessment Unit supports same day emergency care

Supporting the national drive for ‘same day emergency care’ services, a new Orthopaedic Assessment Unit (OAU) has opened at Tunbridge Wells Hospital. Patients arriving at hospital with relevant conditions can be rapidly assessed, diagnosed and treated without being admitted to a ward and, if clinically safe to do so, will go home the same day.

Orthopaedics is an area of surgery dealing with injuries and conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves) and the OAU expands the Trust’s range of services working to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time, making sure beds are free for those who need them the most and getting patients home sooner.

As a dedicated area for the Orthopaedics specialty, patients in the Unit can receive emergency care and return later for review instead of being admitted to a ward. The Unit also supports patients to be discharged promptly and return for review instead of remaining as inpatients. This helps avoid unplanned and longer than necessary hospital stays, and those patients who are able to go home are at lower risk of infection and are also more likely to remain mobile and active.

The Unit is currently open Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 8.00pm and saw 89 patients in December, of which just six were admitted to hospital as inpatients.

The OAU joins a growing number of same day emergency care (SDEC) units at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, including a Surgical Assessment Unit, an Ambulatory Care Unit and an Acute Frailty Unit. Patients can come directly into the appropriate unit, avoiding the need to go via the Emergency Department. The Trust is now seeing 500 patients each week through its same day emergency care services, helping to reduce pressure on its Emergency Departments and supporting quick ambulance handovers. 

George Tataru, Orthopaedic Charge Nurse, said: “our new OAU is proof of the Trust’s commitment to improving our services. We continue to work to reduce the waiting times for assessments or referrals and the patient feedback has been fantastic, with one patient telling us that they find the new unit a “very nice place where we can wait to be seen by an orthopaedic doctor”. Obviously, we are much more than that, as the Unit is well-equipped to deal with same day orthopaedic emergency care.

“Over the past four months we have seen a significant increase in the number of patients attending the assessment unit and we work closely with the Trust’s Emergency Departments to help reduce waiting times and ensure that patients are brought to the most suitable clinical team for their assessments and investigations.”

The OAU has also benefited from the support of the Trust’s dedicated MTW Charity and the kind support of donors has funded vital furniture to improve the comfort of patients, including rise and recliner chairs, over-bed tables and high back chairs.