The Direct Assessment Unit (DAU) at Antrim Area Hospital is now taking referrals for care of the elderly patients.
Staff in the DAU can now give advice to GPs and assess general medicine, nephrology, cardiology and diabetes patients, as well as frail elderly people who require a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA).
GPs can speak directly to medical staff and refer patients for treatment and care in the DAU, as an alternative to them having to go to the Emergency Department. This avoids unnecessary waits and ensures patients are treated in the most suitable place to get the care they need. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service can also refer directly to DAU.
Patients that do not need to be seen urgently on that day, can also be referred to a Rapid Access Medical Clinic where they are given an appointment to attend the next day at a specific time.
The DAU is open from 9am until 8pm (patients arriving before 6pm) Monday to Friday. It is located in the old emergency department and consists of flexible clinical space for trolleys and chairs depending on patient need and also facilities to care for patients who require isolation. An initial assessment is carried out by nursing staff and then a doctor sees all patients and a plan of care is developed for them.
Patients are either treated and discharged or stabilised and referred to the appropriate ward.
In June 2016, 183 of the 270 people seen were treated and discharged while 85 were admitted into the hospital and two people were transferred to other services.
The DAU includes staff from a range of specialities including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers.
The unit was developed with consultation with GPS.