Alternatives to A&E

As pressures on the health system escalate and A&E departments struggle to cope, the public are being urged to consider alternatives. For people in South Cumbria, the Primary Care Assessment Service, PCAS, is one such option.

The PCAS at Kendal is run by Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), with overnight GP cover provided by Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC). As part of the local urgent care system it provides 24 hour treatment and diagnosis for none life threatening injuries and ailments.

Dr Craig Melrose, Associate Medical Director, explained:

“The Primary Care Assessment Service in Westmorland Hospital offers patients assessment and treatment for a wide range of conditions from strains and sprains to broken bones and minor illnesses. It forms part of the local urgent care system.

“The service has access to assessment facilities such as blood tests and x-rays. Patients can attend without an appointment 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The service treats many patients so helping them to avoid the need to travel to the A&E in Lancaster. Where a patient does require more extensive treatment there is a close working relationship with the Lancaster A&E ensuring care is transferred safely.”

Telehealth facilities are currently being developed to allow the clinical team in PCAS to get advice from A&E without the need for the patient to travel themselves. This will help to further reduce unnecessary A&E attendances.


PCAS in practice, a patient story

“I stumbled across the Primary Care Assessment Service (PCAS) at the WGH by accident when looking for somewhere to take my mother who had fallen and injured her wrist whilst out walking. I initially phoned the service on a Saturday evening to clarify what facilities were available and was amazed to find that my call was answered immediately by a very helpful and knowledgeable nurse.

“Having established that it was a 24 hour service and X-ray facilities were available, my mother decided to sleep on it and see how her wrist was in the morning. Unfortunately her wrist was worse on Sunday morning, so we decided to go along to the service.

“I was amazed to find that I could easily find somewhere to park on site, something unheard of at most other hospitals! All the staff (nurses, radiographer and GP) were extremely kind and knowledgeable, treating my mother in a calm and very respectful manner. The whole experience was so much better than we had expected and much more civilised and appropriate for my mother's injury than a hectic A&E department dealing with life threatening emergencies.

“We were very grateful to have access to such an excellent service in the local area. Thank you to everyone involved in my mother's care.”


Not sure where to go for treatment?

  • Most common winter ailments such as coughs and colds are best dealt with at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet.
  • Your local pharmacist is a trained healthcare professional and can give you advice on common illnesses.
  • Call 111 when you need medical advice fast but it’s not an emergency.
  • If you have a persistent illness that won’t go away make an appointment with your GP.
  • For urgent injuries and ailments that are not life threatening, visit your local Primary Care Assessment Service or Minor Injuries Unit.
  • A&E is for serious and life-threatening conditions only.

Notes to editor

More information on Urgent Care Centres is available through NHS Choices