The county's busiest hospital is to become the first in the UK to open an emergency department (ED) specifically for the elderly.

Eastern Daily Press: Mark Davies, the chief executive of the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. Photo: NNUHMark Davies, the chief executive of the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. Photo: NNUH (Image: Archant)

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) announced innovative plans to transform the way it delivers emergency care and will open the first A&E dedicated to patients over the age of 80.

From the end of November, when a patient over 80 years old arrives at the NNUH ED, they will go straight to the older people's ED, where there will be a multi-disciplinary team consisting of ED consultants, consultant geriatricians, and emergency and older people's medicine nurses waiting to provide care for them.

Currently around 50 patients a day aged 80 or over visit A&E, and the new department will cater for around this number.

Patients who require a longer admission will still then be admitted directly to one of the specialist older people's wards. But for other patients, it is hoped the new services should have a significant impact.

Dr Martyn Patel, consultant for older people's medicine, said: 'Norfolk is home to one of the largest populations of older people in country, which is continuing to grow at a fast rate. This means we've got to do something no-one else has done before in the UK, to ensure our older patients are able to receive the best care most appropriate to their needs in a timely manner.'

It comes after a number of changes in the care available for older patients over the last year.

This included older people's ambulatory care which means assessments can be carried out and patients discharged earlier than before. And a second new service, the older people's assessment service, allows GPs direct access to a booked appointment with a specialist geriatrician within 48 hours of referral.

This replaces the traditional outpatient clinic appointment, as well as the long wait.

The hospital also has plans to relocate and expand the paediatric emergency department.

Dr Frankie Swords, chief of division for medicine said: 'I'm delighted to be able to announce these improvements for our youngest and oldest patients in time for the winter.

'For older patients, we know that the earlier we can assess a patient, the quicker we can get them back to full health, regain their independence and avoid hospital admission. This is great news for our hospital, our patients and our staff.'

The hospital will also be relocating the paediatric ED and tripling its size.

The expansion, as well as other improvements to the main ED, will be completed at the end of November, with further work planned for early in the new year.

The paediatric ED treatment areas will increase from three to nine by Christmas, with space available to expand to 15 in 2018. Dr Jane Evans, consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, said: 'This is exciting for NNUH and our young Norfolk patients. This means we will have the capacity to see more patients and enhance the specialist care they receive.'

Mark Davies, hospital chief executive, added: 'As a trust, we are committed to providing the best possible care for our patients, and developing the older people's ED and expanding our paediatric ED both show how we are always looking at new and innovative ways to do so. This is a massive step forward in enhancing emergency care.'