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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

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Home > News > Whitehaven nurses lead the way nationally on ambulatory care

Whitehaven nurses lead the way nationally on ambulatory care

Posted on Wednesday 26th February 2014
nurse-practioners wch

Nurse practitioners in West Cumberland Hospital

Ambulatory care units are now opening in hospitals all over the country in order to help patients avoid unnecessary admission into hospital. Ten years ago, in October 2004, West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven was the first hospital in England to open a Nurse Practitioner Unit (as it was then known).

Amanda Ashcroft, the lead nurse practitioner in West Cumberland Hospital, has worked in the hospital since she qualified in 1997 and came up with the idea to open the unit: “I was a staff nurse on a medical ward and I used to get frustrated by patients staying in hospital for longer than was necessary for them.

“I decided I wanted to do something to tackle this so I started a Nurse Practitioner degree. Once I had completed my training, the Nurse Practitioner unit was opened four years later and I worked there alone initially and then with an orthopaedic nurse practitioner and a nurse practitioner trainee.”

The Ambulatory Care service is there to manage a proportion of emergency adult patients safety and efficiently on the same day, avoiding admission to a hospital bed. This means that patients who would have previously been admitted as inpatients can now be treated more quickly as day cases for things such as blood transfusions and intravenous antibiotics. The unit sees patients who have been referred from A&E or via their GP.

The service is led by nurse practitioners who are highly trained nursing specialists who can assess and diagnose patients, carry out investigations, prescribe treatment and provide continuity of care.

The team in West Cumberland Hospital has expanded over the years and there are now 13 nurse practitioners in post – eight fully trained and five in training. Since June 2013, the unit has seen 870 patients with 81% of these patients being sent straight home without being admitted into hospital. The unit now sees around 10-15 patients every day and this number is continuing to increase.

Amanda said: “The unit is open Monday to Friday 8.00am-8.30pm at the moment and there is always one of us on-call and one of the team also works on our Emergency Assessment Unit seven days a week 9.00am-9.30pm. We have plans to open the unit seven days a week and one of the nurse practitioners will also work on the emergency assessment ward 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are looking forward to expanding the service further and seeing even more patients in the ambulatory care unit.”

Work is continuing on the new state-of-the-art £90 million West Cumberland Hospital due to open next year and ambulatory care will be situated next to the new integrated emergency floor. When the new hospital opens, ambulatory care will be just one of the services expanding, with more planned surgery taking place in the new ultra-modern operating theatres on the surgical floor and patients benefitting from the very best environment for their hospital stay.