QA Hospital says it has pulled out all the stops and is as ready as it can be to tackle the forthcoming winter.
Last year the hospital found itself stretched as a busy A&E department and a high bed occupancy rate led to difficulties.
But after analysing what happened then, and looking again at the system, managers at the hospital say, even with more harsh weather forecast, they are much confident this year. They started planning for this winter in May.
Chief operating officer of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust Paul Bytheway said: ‘We are as prepared as we can be for the winter that’s coming our way.
‘We have worked really hard on a system to have an effective winter plan which allows patients to receive the best and most appropriate care.
‘Planning started much earlier than previously and that’s allowed us to get to a place where we are hopeful we will be able to manage the cancer pathway and the emergency pathway through the winter.
‘Winter is always tough for staff, for the NHS and for patients but we are absolutely prepared for the winter that is going to come.’
The crunch time for the hospital is between the weekend before Christmas and then lasts for about three weeks.
Mr Bytheway said that there had been a number of ‘winter wash-up’ meetings held early this year to learn from last year.
Among the measures being brought in are extra capacity in the hospital, with more beds on the wards this year.
An extra CT scanner has been brought in to speed up access to scanning, meaning potentially more patients will get the go-ahead to be discharged, freeing up space in QA.
And a new discharge lounge has been built on the site, again with the aim of moving fit-again patients out more quickly. This depends on care and reablement packages drawn up by local councils being ready, and Mr Bytheway said that working with all parts of the health and social care system would be crucial to keeping things moving.
Mr Bytheway said the early signs were encouraging, as this year the hospital was graded on green and amber in October – the two lower ranks of alerts – compared to black and red, the two heightened ratings, last year.
He added: ‘We don’t know what this year is going to be like. What we do know is that our occupancy level is less than it was last year. We are going to put extra space in at the hospital and our partners are going to support us. It’s not just QA but it’s the infrastructure in the community – if we can get that right it creates space at QA but also puts people in the right place.’
Dr Linda Collie, Clinical Leader for NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG), said: ‘We are entering the busiest time of year for the NHS and so all parts of the local system are gearing themselves up for the challenges ahead.
‘There are great efforts going on not just at QA, but also in GP surgeries, community teams and mental health services to make sure that we are as ready as we can be – that means finding extra capacity where we can, and working together more effectively than in the past.
‘People should use their local NHS wisely at any time of year, but that becomes even more important over winter. Thousands of local frontline NHS staff will be working flat out in the coming months, and we can all help them to help their patients by knowing what to do if we need healthcare in a hurry.
‘Too often people still think of A&E as the default option, when it should only be used for the most serious, or life-threatening problems.’
Health and care organisations in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire – along with the local voluntary sector - are joining forces to bring together services and to invest in ways to prevent ill-health
Sue Harriman, chief executive of Solent NHS Trust, is ‘system convenor’ for the partnership and said: ‘Wrapping services around individuals and communities is what local people have told us they want.
“Our plans for this winter are, therefore, even more joined-up than ever before so we can start to deliver easier to access health and social care services and treatments. Removing unhelpful boundaries between organisations is an important step we have taken to help services cope better with demand.
‘While we are careful not to promise this is the magic bullet, we are encouraged by the enthusiasm within our health and care system to work together to make a difference to everyone coming into contact with local services.
‘We are continuously seeking opportunities to improve and so where people feel we could be doing things differently, please do let us know and we promise to listen and take action.
‘Residents can continue to have their say on local services, through existing contact channels, to service providers and commissioners.’