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Work to upgrade urgent care at St Albans hospital moves to next stage

1 October 2021

Plans for an enhanced service at St Albans City Hospital that will treat patients’ minor illnesses and minor injuries are progressing to the next stage after the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) board supported plans for an integrated urgent care hub.

The proposed integrated urgent care hub would be run by specialist nurses with support from GPs, providing same day urgent care for minor injuries and illnesses that need prompt attention but aren’t life threatening. Much like GP services, the integrated urgent care hub will work on an appointment basis with patients booked into the service through NHS111 or their GP practice. It will be open for a minimum of 9 hours a day.

More work will now take place with the involvement of patient representatives to draw up the final specification for the integrated urgent care hub and to provide detailed costings. Subject to further board approval of the outline business case and funding, the CCG will go out to market for a provider to run the new service later this year. The new service is expected to be up and running towards the middle of next year.

Herts Valleys CCG has been considering how best to develop urgent care services at St Albans Hospital for some time. The temporary closure of the minor injuries unit (MIU) in April 2020 as part of the COVID-19 response provided an opportunity to reassess what service to provide at St Albans once services are able to resume next year.  

The board was presented with the findings of a public engagement run by the CCG between mid-June and early August. This asked about people’s use of urgent care services and sought views on four possible options for future provision St Albans City Hospital. These ranged from a ‘do nothing’ option of not having any sort of service on the site, a ‘do minimum’ option of reopening the MIU, an enhanced option of the integrated urgent care hub and an advanced option of an urgent treatment centre. In presenting options to the public the CCG openly stated its preference for an integrated urgent care hub on the basis that it offered the flexibility to design a minor injury and illness service that would meet local needs without overstretching resources.

Over 3,200 people responded to the engagement which showed clear support for continued urgent care facilities at St Albans City Hospital. Public support increased according to the level of service being offered. Accordingly, the most favoured option was the urgent treatment centre (UTC) which 91% of respondents supported but there was also substantial backing for the integrated urgent care hub which was supported by 83%.

Evaluation by the CCG showed that the UTC option (which would have to follow national requirements around opening hours, access, workforce and services offered) would put pressure on already stretched GP workforce and NHS finances. It was felt that this could not be justified when there are already UTCs in nearby Hemel Hempstead and Watford.

Speaking after the board meeting, Dir Richard Pile, lead GP for urgent care at Herts Valleys CCG says “We’ve been talking about urgent care services at St Albans hospital for some time and this agreement gives us a real opportunity to improve provision for patients and create a service that supports people well into the future, sitting alongside other available services.

“I’d like to thank everyone who took their time to share their views as part of the public engagement. The scale of the response shows that local people are as enthusiastic about urgent care services as we are. We value everyone’s feedback and we will take people’s comments into account as we develop the new service.  

“We appreciate that we will need to reassure some people that an appointment only service will meet their needs in the same way as the previous walk-in service and we’re committed to continuing the conversation over the coming months.”

Information about the public engagement and the report detailing public feedback is available on our Consultation and public engagement page.

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