An urgent care centre is to remain closed overnight for another three months.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has revealed today that the temporary measure – put in place on December 1 – is being extended.
The centre at North Tyneside General Hospital, along with similar facilities at Wansbeck and Hexham general hospitals, will remain closed from midnight to 8am.
The move was made to enable the health trust to maximise the staff available at The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington over the busy winter period.
But due to NHS services remaining busy, a decision has been made that it would be inappropriate to deploy staff back to the centres, stating that vital expertise of nursing staff must be used where patients need them most overnight.
Figures show that in December 540 people from North Tyneside visited the Northumbria Hospital between midnight and 8am, 484 in January, and 419 in February.
However, the number of people who visited North Tyneside urgent care centre between 8am and midnight was 85 in December, 81 in January, and 82 in February.
Northumbria Healthcare said an average of only four people attended overnight at North Tyneside and Wansbeck prior to the temporary measure being put in place.
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The operational decision we took last December was absolutely the right thing to do and has helped us successfully meet the continued unprecedented demand we are seeing.
“Although it is now officially spring, it would not be a wise use of our staff’s time and expertise to redeploy them back at this time.
“We’ve looked closely again at the data and spoken with our teams who agree that their skills are best used where they are of most benefit to patients during the night.
“Since transforming our emergency care model in 2015, all serious emergencies overnight already go to The Northumbria hospital.
“This is where our consultant-led teams of specialists are concentrated 24/7 so we can offer the very highest quality of care available anywhere in the entire NHS.
“Overnight activity at our urgent care centres has always been minimal as those who are seriously ill or injured are cared for in exactly the right place, at The Northumbria hospital.
“As we continue with these interim arrangements, we would remind people of the very safe out-of-hours arrangements available, via NHS 111, should anyone need urgent medical advice during the night.”
The trust says the temporary arrangement will be re-visited in June.
Dr Martin Wright, GP in Wallsend and medical director at North Tyneside CCG, said: “The interim steps taken by the trust last December have been effective in helping services through a very busy winter.
“This demand, however, is continuing right across the NHS and we must all play a part in using services appropriately to keep emergency care services free for those who need them most.”