YORK Hospital A&E department is to receive a £2 million upgrade ahead of winter, the Government has announced.

However, from December, patients may be asked contact NHS 111 before attending A&E as health chiefs try to cut out unnecessary visits to emergency departments.

The move would reduce the transmission of Covid-19, say NHS bosses, but they stressed that those who attend A&E without an appointment would not be turned away.

The £2 million cash boost will be used to increase isolation capacity and improve the resuscitation area, children’s waiting area and the clinical decision unit at York Hospital.

The cash is part of £10 million earmarked by the Government for Yorkshire and the North East - out of a national pot of £150 million - to expand and upgrade A&Es at trusts, including York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

This is in addition to £300 million announced recently for 117 trusts to upgrade their facilities.

The cash would ensure York Hospital had the physical space to treat patients, manage patient flow and improve infection control, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

York Press:

Projects will be completed by the start of next year so hospitals benefit from the upgrades during the peak of winter, the Government said.

However, it added that a new scheme whereby patients would need to contact NHS 111 before accessing urgent medical care was also set to be rolled out to all hospital trusts by the end of the year.

The scheme is currently being piloted in some trusts across England.

A Government spokesperson said: "To ensure patients get the right care in the right place and avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments, NHS 111 will build on its role during the pandemic to direct patients to the most clinically appropriate service, including emergency departments, an urgent treatment centre, a GP or mental health professional.

"Based on what works best during the pilots, this approach will be rolled out to all trusts from December this year."

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are investing £450 million to make sure our A&E departments are ready for winter. Hospitals around the country will be able to expand and upgrade to ensure they can continue safely treating patients in the coming months.

“During the peak of the pandemic we saw millions of people using NHS 111 to get the best possible advice on Covid-19, and other urgent NHS services.

"These pilots will build on this and test whether we can deliver quicker access to the right care, provide a better service for the public and ensure our dedicated NHS staff aren’t overwhelmed.

“We all need to play our part by washing our hands regularly, using a face covering and keeping our distance from those not in our household. We are determined to protect the NHS as we did during the peak.”

Those facing a life-threatening emergency should continue to dial 999 immediately, the NHS said. If someone is unsure how serious a condition is then NHS 111 can offer advice and if necessary, dispatch an ambulance.

The NHS says it is investing £24 million to increase 111 call handling capacity and will have more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance.

Dr Cliff Mann, NHS national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, said: “While emergency admissions are now back to near normal levels and 999 calls are actually above usual, Covid infection control means rethinking how safely to look after people who might previously have been to an emergency department for a more minor condition.

"Local teams are working hard to expand and adapt services to ensure people can continue to get the care they need safely, whether that’s in hospital or closer to home.

“This additional investment will help us continue the development of NHS 111 and provide a broader range of services, with direct booking that will ensure all patients can see the right clinicians in the right setting, and address the extra challenges posed by Covid-19 so that emergency departments can safely treat those patients who do require their services.”