THE new assessment and treatment centre at Rowley Regis Hospital has opened and is relieving pressure from Russells Hall and Sandwell General Accident and Emergency wards.

The GP led centre is run by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and will operate until the end of March to ease the burden during the winter months.

If the trial, which is being paid for by a £400m fund to help the NHS during the winter, is successful health chiefs will repeat the initiative in future years.

Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris was shown round the new Primary Care Assessment and Treatment (PCAT) centre by local GPs and hospital staff.

He said: “This is an excellent initiative by Sandwell and West Birmingham GPs and the Hospital Trust and demonstrates the benefit of giving local doctors the power to design services around the needs of our communities.

“The new centre is offering patients a better, faster service and at the same time it is helping to keep people away from accident and emergency departments if they don’t need to be there."

He added: “It is the third new major service to be opened at Rowley in the past three years, following on from the Henderson Reablement Unit and the new Eliza Tinsley Ward.

“I hope that other local health authorities – including Dudley – will look at this centre and see how they can learn from the innovative work being done by Sandwell GPs to improve our local health service.”

The centre uses the skills of GPs, community matrons, nursing and therapy staff to assess and treat patients who are registered with a GP practice in the Sandwell and West Birmingham.

Patients must be referred by their doctor, the ambulance service or another NHS service.

Sandwell GP Dr George Solomon, who chairs the CCG’s Strategic Commissioning and Service Redesign sub-committee, 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.

“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. This is a pilot scheme and we will be monitoring its impact over the winter.”

Toby Lewis, chief executive of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “This is another promise delivered in bringing care closer to home. We are thrilled to be working with local GPs to develop more capacity in primary care locally.”

The centre monitors and treats patients, refer patients for diagnostic tests, agree patient management plans and admit patients to hospital.