New ‘Hyper Acute Units’ for sickle cell patients

NHS England has announced the creation of new 24/7 ‘Hyper Acute Units’ with the aim of helping people with sickle cell disease to receive pain relief quicker when experiencing a crisis.

The new units are part of a wider focus on training for healthcare professionals on sickle cell symptoms to “address longstanding inequalities reported by patients in accessing the right care”. Around four in five people with sickle cell disease will be able to receive specialist support from staff at the units, thus avoiding waits in A&E. They will be able to go straight to clinicians with a prior understanding of their condition and as such are better placed to provide quick and effective pain relief.

Other measures introduced to address these inequalities include genetic testing to ensure better-matched blood transfusions (thus decreasing side-effects), and a new campaign to help ensure those eligible for free prescriptions take up the offer to “help them stay well at home”.

The units will be set up in London and Manchester, which NHSE says have the highest number of sickle patients.

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, has commented: “Sickle cell crises can be deeply debilitating, and patients have the right to expect that the NHS will be there for them when they need help most. By creating these new specialist units we hope to be able to provide a much better experience, with much quicker treatment, for thousands of people. The new measures we are launching today are the latest, important step we are taking to improve how the NHS meets the needs of sickle cell patients, listening closely to what they have told us would make the biggest difference, and we are committed to continuing this work together.”

Professor Bola Owolabi, NHS director for health inequalities, was also quoted on his hopes that the new units will see sickle cell patients being more confident in coming forward when suffering from a crisis: “These new hyper acute units will give people with sickle cell the confidence to come forward for care during these intensely painful and life-threatening episodes and receive the care from NHS staff that we would all want and expect in our hour of need.”