GP unit scheme is big success for hospital services
A SPECIALIST unit manned by family doctors has helped cut unnecessary admissions to hospital.
The Acute GP Unit (AGPU), the first of its kind in Wales, was opened in Singleton Hospital a year ago.
Over the past 12 months around 2,300 patients from Swansea and Neath Port Talbot — over a third who have used the service — have avoided being admitted to a hospital bed.
Staffed by 20 GPs, the unit provides a fast track to diagnostic tests, consultant advice, clinics and other care.
The Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) says traditionally, many patients would have had to go to a hospital admissions unit first.
It also means hospital beds are freed up for those who really need them.
The doctors also offer advice to fellow GPs out in the community.
The 20 GPs involved are based in their local surgeries most of the time, but then take it in turns to work in the AGPU.
There, they act as a bridge for patients to access hospital-based tests and care without the need to go into a bed on a ward unnecessarily.
They work closely with hospital physicians, consultants, therapists and nurses to agree the best way to care for a patient.
ABMU says feedback from patients has been positive.
Following a call from a family doctor, if the AGPU GP decides a patient needs admission, the patient attends the Singleton admission unit to undergo observations and assessments.
Alternatively, the patient can go to the AGPU for assessment instead, and the unit GP will look for the best way to deal with the patient.
That could mean fast-tracking them to a clinic, accessing consultant advice, sending them for a diagnostic test or referring them to a community team.
The unit can help patients with a wide range of medical conditions including deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, and cellulitis; although referrals must be via GPs.
It deals with about 25 calls a day from GPs, and currently operates during weekdays, but managers say this may be extended as the service evolves.
The unit also works with Singleton Hospital's minor injury unit to offer a seamless service for patients.
And it has recently starting dealing directly with some non-emergency ambulance patients, via paramedics.