A BRAND new health centre is opening at Rowley Regis Hospital to help overstretched local accident and emergency wards cope with soaring demand in winter months.

It will bring together expertise from GPs, community matrons, nursing and therapy staff, to give patients extended care under one roof. Patients over 16 who are registered with a Sandwell and West Birmingham GP will be able take advantage of the services available.

Dr Nick Harding, chairman of Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG and a practising GP, said: “We have been working with health and social care providers across the area to reduce the increasing demand on A&E services over the winter.

"This new centre is part of our strategy to improve access for patients."

He added: “As a local GP, patients sometimes need further observation but would prefer not to be admitted to hospital, and they can now access continued clinical support at the centre. At the moment this is a pilot scheme and we will be monitoring its impact over the winter.”

Unlike accident and emergency wards the centre will not offer a walk in service as patients must be referred by health professionals such as a GP or ambulance crews.

The centre will monitor and treat patients, treat long term conditions, refer patients for diagnostic tests, manage any medication and if necessary admit patients to hospital.

Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris, who controversially raised the spectre of the hospital closing at the last General Election, backed the new centre.

He said: “This is fantastic news for Rowley Regis Hospital and will help to tackle the seasonal pressure on A&E departments at Sandwell General and Russells Hall.

“Since I was elected in 2010, Rowley Regis Hospital has gone from having all of its in-patient wards threatened with closure, to getting two new wards and now this Primary Care Assessment and Treatment Centre.

“It has been made possible because the Government has provided £400 million extra funding to hospitals to help ease the impact of the cold weather on the NHS."

He added: “I am proud that, even at a time when we are tackling the deficit, the Government is continuing to increase investment in our health service and that has delivered 400 more doctors, 145 more midwives and 296 more paramedics here in the West Midlands.”

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust will run the centre, which is due to open next week, with funding from Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group until March 2014.