An adult urgent treatment centre has opened at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, to help reduce the A&E waiting times.

The service, which is open from 8am to 8pm daily, will see patients aged 16 and over who go to A&E with urgent care needs, minor illnesses and minor injuries.

"This will free up the emergency department to deal with the most serious cases, and will consequently reduce the length of stay patients experience in their urgent and emergency care pathway," a spokesperson for the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs Lister, explained.

Urgent treatment centres (UTCs) provide urgent medical help when it’s not a life-threatening emergency, offering appointments that can be booked through 111 or through a GP referral, and are equipped to diagnose and deal with many of the most common ailments people attend A&E for.

UTCs ease the pressure on hospitals, leaving other parts of the system free to treat the most serious cases.

The team of emergency nurse practitioners and GPs at Lister's UTC can treat a range of minor illnesses and injuries, including sprains and dislocations, burns and scalds, minor head injuries and objects stuck in ears or noses.

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The trust's spokesperson said: "If you or a family member or loved one has a minor illness or injury, always contact your GP first for advice and an appointment. You can also get advice from a pharmacy and from NHS 111.

"For a suspected heart attack, stroke or any other serious or life-threatening illness or injury, always call 999 immediately.

"If you cannot get a GP appointment and your condition is urgent, or you’re advised to seek help by 111, our urgent treatment centre is open every day from 8am to 8pm.

"Please do not present directly to the UTC. Instead, continue to present at the emergency department and, if appropriate, you will be signposted to the Lister adult UTC, where you will be triaged and treated.

"The waiting time to be seen in the UTC may be shorter than at the emergency department, but it will vary depending on how busy the centre is and the urgency of your condition or injury."