Patients attending Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department could now be sent for treatment in another well-known hospital building.
Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust has introduced “front-door streaming” in a bid to ease the pressure on the A&E unit.
Medical staff will speak to patients arriving at A&E, take a brief history and perform basic observations if appropriate.
The patients most in need of care will be seen in the A&E department, as has traditionally happened.
But others, such as those who do not have an injury and can walk and talk, will instead go to a new primary care streaming centre.
It will be based at the Christopher Home, which is on the same site and has had many uses over the past 80 years, including as a maternity building and an eye hospital.
The changes are part of a national initiative to implement front-door streaming at every A&E, so that staff can focus on caring for the most seriously ill patients and waiting times will be reduced.
The latest figures showed the number of people waiting more than four hours to be seen in Wigan’s A&E department had risen again.
A spokesman for the hospital trust said: “NHS England is introducing a series of measures to support pressurised frontline services with the aim of ensuring patients receive the right care, in the right place and at the right time, according to the seriousness of their condition.
“Streaming at the front door of Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust’s accident and emergency department will see that our sickest patients are given priority, while others are redirected to the places appropriate to meet their needs.
“Front-door streaming commenced in A&E at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary site on Monday, October 2 and, like many other A&E units across the country, has been introduced so patients receive the optimal care for their concern.”
When the shake-up was revealed earlier this year, it was expected to cost £1.3m.
Former offices on the ground floor of the Christopher Home were being remodelled, as well as the front of the A&E department to provide improved facilities.
It was thought around 25,000 patients a year - about 70 patients a day - would be treated at the centre.