Drive-through assessment hubs for people who may need urgent medical treatment for coronavirus will be rolled out today in Dundee as part of a national escalation of emergency planning.
Three tents have been set up at the city’s Kings Cross Hospital on Clepington Road to assess individuals with the virus who feel they are too ill to continue self-isolating and may require further treatment.
A second assessment centre is expected to open at Perth Royal Infirmary in the coming days, with three further ‘sub hubs’ also planned in Arbroath, Forfar and Montrose.
Patients will be asked to initially contact NHS 24 on the 111 number to discuss worsening symptoms and will then be contacted by a GP directly to see whether a drive-through assessment may be necessary.
The assessment will not test whether the patient is positive for Covid-19 but will instead be used to check whether individuals presenting with difficulties may require further medical assistance.
Dr Scott Jamieson, a Dundee GP who has played a key role in setting up the hubs, said: “This is not a testing centre, there is no testing of the general public.
“This is about assessment of patients who think they have it who we feel are well enough to come down in a car and be seen.
“Patients who need to be seen at home will be seen at home and patients we think need to be in hospital will be in hospital.
“This is for patients that can be driven down here and be assessed by a GP, with nursing support, and we will assess them here when they arrive.”
Health officials expect medical centres across the country to face increasing numbers of patients as the spread of the virus continues.
Assessment hubs will be set up in a number of locations throughout Scotland in the coming weeks to help deal with the strain.
The hub at Kings Cross Hospital was established just nine days after the Scottish Government tasked health boards to begin setting up assessment facilities.
Dr Jane Bruce, associate medical director of primary care at NHS Tayside, is hopeful the approach will mean additional pressure created by the Covid-19 pandemic is directed away from busy local GP surgeries.
She said the current plan is for patients calling to report worsening symptoms to receive a call back from their own family doctor but warned officials are dealing with a “totally evolving situation”.
“The whole purpose of this is to provide safe, efficient and effective care for patients across Scotland, and now people in Tayside, as the coronavirus pandemic escalates,” Dr Bruce said.
“Patients with respiratory symptoms will all be assessed in a coronavirus unit and that will free up GPs, who are very stretched at the moment, to work in their own surgeries and see everyday problems.”
Dr Bruce stressed patients will be given a thorough examination, similar to those experienced in a GP surgery, and could experience a range of outcomes following the assessment.
She said: “It could be three things really. It could be advice and being sent back home, it could be advice and treatment such as a prescription or the actual medicine out of hours, or it could be a seamless transfer to hospital.
“We’re working in really close conjunction with the hospital and secondary care to develop an overall response. So if we need someone seen at hospital, that can be done really seamlessly.”
Health chiefs to create ‘hospital within a hospital’ in battle to protect services from coronavirus
Health chiefs in Tayside say they will build a “hospital within a hospital” to protect vital services from Covid-19.
Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital will be split down the middle, with one side dedicated to patients carrying the virus and the other used to continue essential care away from the outbreak.
Professor Colin Fleming, operational medical director at NHS Tayside, described the level of work being carried out on the project as “astonishing”.
He said: “What we really need to do with Covid-19 is build a hospital within a hospital and I’m pleased to say that by this time next week we will have done that, we will have built a Covid-19 hospital within Ninewells.
“We are incredibly lucky because our structure naturally in the hospital divides into an east wing and a west wing, and what we’ll be doing on the west wing is all our normal business as usual.”
Health bosses plan to dedicate the east side of Ninewells to treating Covid-19 patients, with nearly 300 beds set to be made available to individuals with the virus.
Training will also be provided for medical staff who may be asked to take on new roles and responsibilities.
Professor Fleming said: “The Chinese were lauded, they were praised, for building a 1,000-bed hospital in a week for an enormous population.
“For our population in Tayside, we’ve built a 280-bed hospital almost overnight. We will have created this within days.
“It’s absolutely astonishing what the staff of this organisation have done.”