Headlines: March 1st, 2000

The new Accident and Emergency Department at St Thomas’ Hospital in London has more modernisation to offer than the latest facilities.It is one of the first of 182 hospital trusts around the country to have completed modernisation work under a massive Government programme, and it offers an insight into likely content of new guidance expected from the Department of Health shortly on how all such departments should be overhauled.

The new A&E at St Thomas’ offers greater powers and responsibilities for nurses, who will be able to use their judgement and treat certain categories of patient on arrival, rather than simply assessing them, as now. They will have greater powers to request x-rays, blood tests and other diagnostic procedures, to interpret the results, give medication and discharge patients.

They will also play a key part in the new fast-tracking system that will despatch some patients direct to the specialty which can treat their complaint, rather than spending longer in the A&E consultant’s care.

There are also wider responsibilities for physiotherapists, radiographers and paramedics, all of which leaves consultants more time to spend treating the most complex cases.