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Community Assessment Centres (CACs) – A Vital Tool In Our COVID-19 Armoury

Published: | Primary Care

One of the first major responses to the COVID-19 pandemic has also proven to be one of the most effective, providing vital frontline support for thousands of patients, and protecting the health service from being overwhelmed by the virus.

Community Assessment Centres (CACs) first appeared in March 2020 – rapidly set up across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to help manage the flow of suspected COVID-19 patients into the health service.

While much has been learned about the virus since then, back in March 2020 its severity, its transmissibility and the best treatment was still very much an enigma. Despite this, hundreds of dedicated NHS staff put themselves forward into new roles at the CACs – voluntarily stepping into the unknown to help protect and treat the public ahead of their own safety, and acting as the crucial frontline and first physical care point for many patients with suspected COVID-19.

Because of that, thousands of patients were able to be assessed and directed either home with a care plan to get better, or, moved into acute care through one of the (then) newly established ‘red’ pathways.

Barr Street in Glasgow was one of the first centres to be set up which has seen it play an instrumental role in the response to COVID. In its first 12 months it saw more than 16,000 patients. The Centre continues to run seven days a week, taking on the capacity across NHSGGC over the weekends. By the end of 2021 Barr Street alone had seen upwards of 36,700 patients.

The success of the team has been used a blueprint for other centres. Having come from a variety of disciplines and services, the team quickly integrated – providing a multi-disciplinary care plan for patients, and importantly – a reassuring and friendly face for patients at the most anxious of times.

Dr Kerri Neylon, Deputy Medical Director for Primary Care at NHSGGC, played an important role in establishing CACs across the health board, including Barr Street.

Dr Neylon said: “The creation of the CACs across NHSGGC provided important protection for patients who required non- COVID-19 related care and key support to our 235 GP practices. The staff have been fantastic and demonstrate our key health service values in action on a daily basis. This goes for Barr Street and all other Centres which were set up and relied so much on the local clinicians to staff.

“They answered the call without question, and undoubtedly helped control the impact of the virus on our key health services by making sure patients got the right type of care. They came together and quickly established protocols to improve patient experiences and outcomes – from the communication with patients and their families, through to treatment and discharge either home or to hospital.”

Assistant Chief Officer, Primary Care and Early Intervention for Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), Gary Dover, added: “The Barr Street team has been inspirational and I’m not surprised so many staff were willing to face the unknown in taking up frontline roles at the centre. Despite the rapid pace of change and ongoing uncertainty, the team were there to provide comfort and treatment to patients, while also helping protect our other vital health services from being overwhelmed.”

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