Plans to improve access to urgent and emergency care services in Sunderland have come with a plea from health leaders for people to use services wisely this winter.

As the NHS continues to manage a tidal wave of pressures, health and care partners have confirmed that the City’s Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) will move from Pallion Health Centre into the main Sunderland Royal Hospital building next month.

From Wednesday 8 December, the Urgent Treatment Centre will be co-located right next door to the main adult Emergency Department (ED).  Patients will access these services through a single entry point at Sunderland Royal Hospital in a move which aims to improve patient experience, reduce waiting times and make it much simpler for the public to access the right service at the right time.

The move has been welcomed by City councillors at a recent Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny meeting and supports national NHS guidance for Urgent Treatment Centres and Emergency Departments to be co-located as close together as possible.  This is to allow better ‘streaming’ of patients into the right service.

Health and care leaders at All Together Better Sunderland*, expect a number of benefits from the move which will provide extra resilience going into the winter months.

Dr Tracey Lucas, a Sunderland GP and Senior Responsible Clinician for All Together Better, said: “Co-locating the urgent treatment centre right next door to the emergency department at Sunderland Royal Hospital will be a hugely positive step forwards in allowing us to improve the delivery of care to those who need urgent help and improving the overall patient experience of the service.

“Being situated within the main hospital and adjacent to the emergency department means we will be able to ensure patients are seen in the right service more quickly.

“The move is one of many quality improvements we are making across the entire health and care system in Sunderland as we prepare for the challenging winter ahead.”

Sunderland’s Urgent Treatment Centre cares for minor illnesses and injuries that need urgent attention, but are not life-threatening such as:

  • Coughs and colds
  • High temperature in child and adults
  • Stomach pain
  • Being sick (vomiting) and diarrhoea
  • Suspected broken bones
  • Sprains and strains
  • Minor head injuries
  • Minor scalds and burns
  • Bites and stings
  • Cuts and grazes
  • Ear and throat infections
  • Skin infections and rashes

Where possible, patients should book an appointment slot at the UTC through NHS 111 or via a GP referral, however the UTC service is open to ‘walk-in’ patients.

NHS leaders are also reminding people in Sunderland how to use other urgent care services across the City at a time when the NHS is under significant and ongoing pressure.  The Sunderland GP Extended Access Service provides urgent access to GP appointments and advice 7 days a week from five hubs across the City at Bunnyhill, Houghton, Pallion, Riverview and Washington.

Appointments are available every evening between 6pm and 8.30pm and on weekends between 9am and 5.30pm.  Patients are advised to contact their own practice GP during working hours or call NHS 111 when their usual GP practice is closed to access these urgent out of hours GP appointments.

Dr Tracey Lucas added: “Services across the whole NHS are extremely busy and have been the whole summer.  Please be patient and kind to staff who are working very hard and doing their very best to see people as quickly as possible.

“We know it can be frustrating if it takes longer to get through on the phone to book an appointment or to be seen in person, but please know that our fantastic teams are working tirelessly to give you the help and support you need.”

Plans for the vacated space at Pallion Health Centre are already under discussion and will allow more space for the Sunderland GP Extended Access Service as well as other GP practices based within Pallion to expand local services.