Outpatients unit opened at University Hospital of North Staffordshire
NEARLY half a million people needing to see medical specialists will soon be the latest to walk into North Staffordshire's stunning superhospital.
The new premises has already opened to patients using its wards, theatres, children's unit and state-of-the-art A&E.
Now it is the turn of outpatients whose first clinics will be unveiled in the £400 million complex on the City General site on Monday.
About 443,000 people a year will be attending specialist appointments in spacious and bright surroundings.
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In fact so many will be passing through the system that officials forecast neighbourhoods and communities throughout North Staffordshire will get to experience the 'wow factor' of the facilities.
They believe the 21st century design will also help bring relief from two of the public's main NHS gripes; lack of parking and over-running clinics forcing patients to wait long periods to be called in to see the doctor.
If the A&E was seen as the jewel in the crown of the historic redevelopment, then the outpatients is being heralded as the shop window, as officials say that if someone needs to visit hospital just once in their lifetime, it is likely to be to attend an outpatients clinic.
It is also the final piece in the jigsaw of services to be incorporated into the imposing six-storey structure.
People needing consultations for veins, gynaecological, waterworks, hearing, bowel and ear, nose and throat complaints and breast abnormalities will be among the first through the doors, with skin patients visiting clinics at the hospital from July.
That will signal the closure of the cramped, dingy, inefficient central outpatients department which has served the area for 45 years.
Innovation will be obvious as soon as patients take their first tentative steps into the towering atrium inside the hospital's main entrance.
Instead of reporting in at a desk they will punch their gender and date of birth into one of six touch screens and collect a ticket which will direct them to the right location.
These will be in one of 30-plus clinics which have 84 consulting, six treatment and 44 specialist rooms all gathered over the ground and first floors.
In fact, the outpatients department alone is bigger than some towns' entire hospitals.
And as wards, emergency care and other services are all under the same superhospital roof, doctors can walk in minutes from their other duties to take charge of a clinic and blitz delays.
In another first, as soon as patients book in at their destination, they will be told by receptionists how long they will need to wait and a detailed reason for any delay; with updates being given every half hour.
Outpatients services director Steven Robbins, below, said: "We know clinic delays are one of the most irritating things for patients so with the new department opening we have designed new systems to reduce them.
"For example instead of booking a clutch of appointments for the same time we are staggering them across the day.
"Television monitors will be in each waiting room to keep them fully updated on if the clinic is running late – and why."
The closure of the old outpatients department has also allowed a parking shake-up to produce 200 more spaces either right outside the door on the nearby multi-storey.
Modern matron Karen Henshall said: "We have planned the move right down to who will empty each bin.
"We are totally focused on outpatients and can't wait for them to see their superb new centre."