Following complaints about a countywide survey on the healthcare of High Wycombe, a city in Buckinghamshire, England, councillors have unanimously approved a new study on medical services available in the area. The new report seeks to analyze healthcare in the area following several changes at Wycombe Hospital, including the closure of the Accident and Emergency department in 2011. The new rendition of the survey will reportedly focus on urgent care and resident statements.
On the evening of Monday, July 28, 2014, the Wycombe District Councillers voted unanimously to launch a second report on healthcare in the Wycombe area after voicing disappointment with a previous study, which was conducted as part of the government’s Keogh review of hospital services. In addition to understanding how the loss of hospital services has affected the community, one cabinet member also stated that the report should aim raise residents’ awareness of the hospital’s Minor Illness and Incident Unit (MIIU), or urgent care center.
The councillor expressed concern that a number of patients who could have been successfully treated at the Wycombe urgent care center instead traveled to the Accident and Emergency department at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, another medical center in Buckinghamshire. Because the Keogh review of hospital services did not analyze how many patients visited Stoke Mandeville instead of the urgent care center, the councillors believe there could be a major problem with the study’s findings. The new report will likely seek an answer to this question and also explore the possibility of increasing services at Wycombe Hospital.
The Council’s concerns over the proper utilization of the community urgent care center are understandable in light of a recent study from the NHS and published in the medical journal BMJ Open: experts from the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Universities of Manchester, Oxford and University College London, found that A&E departments were unable to treat, discharge or admit 95% of patients within a 4 hour period for over 52 weeks. The study also found that urgent care centers could significantly reduce the pressure on local hospitals. These findings echo similar statistics in other countries: in the United States, for example, the average urgent care clinic gets somewhere between 300 and 400 visits every week, helping to relieve local emergency departments facing an overwhelming number of patients.
The Wycombe MIIU is equipped to handle a variety of ailments and medical conditions, including cuts and bruises, sprains and strains, bites and stings, scalds and minor burns, possible fractures, and other minor injuries. In the wake of a number of NHS hospital closures, similar to the 2011 closure of Wycombe’s A&E, medical centers like the MIIU could become increasingly important: on Wednesday, July 30, it was announced that the A&E units at two West London hospitals, Charing Cross and Hammersmith, were going to be closed and sold off. The 22,000 patients who use the facilities every year will now have to travel to St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Protesters referred to the decision the biggest closure in NHS history.
The new Wycombe study is expected to feature a public listening event in the district to gather reports of residents’ perspectives and experiences at area Accident and Emergency departments, as well as urgent care centers. The study will also gather information on transportation between Wycombe and Stoke Mandeville Hospitals, as well as the experiences the frail and elderly have had while attempting to access medical services. Until the results of the survey are released and necessary changes are implemented, residents of the Wycombe area have been asked to visit the MIIU for minor medical problems, whereas major problems, serious head injuries, and any cases involving loss of consciousness should be treated at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.