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Planning ahead for winter rush

West Suffolk Hospital Bury St Edmunds''Picture Mark Westley
West Suffolk Hospital Bury St Edmunds''Picture Mark Westley

An NHS trust has said that it must develop a ‘more effective’ plan for winter months, after it struggled to cope with pressures last year.

Staff at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust agreed last Friday that plans would have to executed early on this year to avoid a repeat of last winter.

A report of winter reflections, prepared by chief operating officer Helen Beck, said that ‘winter 2017/18 has been one of the most challenging for the NHS as a whole, and within West Suffolk as a Trust and as a system, this has certainly been the case’.

It added that ‘despite robust planning and preparation over the summer of 2017 we have seen a significant deterioration in our performance’.

Alex Baldwin, deputy chief operating officer, who presented the report, said: “We need to be more effective. We have to focus on demand management which is the key factor the system needs to come together.

“We don’t want to move the existing way of working, but we do have to effectively plan for an increase in demand. That means approaching the community and doing work both inside and outside the hospital leading up to the winter months as well as during.”

The report also stated that extra pressure was placed on staff due to the decision not to open a winter escalation ward - a temporary ward to help cope with bed shortages .

It said that the trust was therefore ‘forced to open an additional capacity at short notice to meet the rising demand and has been unable to close these beds once opened, stretching nursing and nursing assistant resources very thinly across the trust’.

As a result, other wards such as the Acute Admissions Unit and the Discharge Waiting Area had to be employed to house patients.

Stephen Dunn, the trust’s chief executive, said: “We had a significant winter spike that was not expected and it put us under a tremendous amount of pressure. We should not have tried to cope without putting these plans in place.”

Dr Nick Jenkins, medical director, said: “I was talking to doctors from other organisations and although we are not where we want to be, others are a lot worse off. We are not delivering what we would like to deliver but we are doing amazingly well. I think it’s important to maintain some perspective.”

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