Health leaders in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent are speaking out to reassure patients that proposals to change urgent and emergency care services are designed to improve care for patients by providing them with convenient and appropriate alternatives to waiting in A&E if they have an urgent, but minor ailment.
Details of the five-year Staffordshire and Stoke-on Trent Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) were released in December 2016, which included proposals to consider ways to reshape a number of services to make them more responsive to the needs of patients.
Dr Bill Gowans, Medical Director for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on Trent STP, said:
“The STP allows us to look at how we can improve healthcare across the county – including accident & emergency (A&E) and minor injuries units (MIUs).
“Some of that means thinking differently about the role our hospitals play in people’s local health needs and we appreciate the strength of local feeling on this subject.
“We all know that A&Es are busy and that patients requiring urgent medical help can sometimes experience long waiting times, especially in winter. We need to talk about adapting our services to increase the benefits to patients of different types of care.
“Many people have healthcare needs which need to be met urgently but which are not emergencies. Patients do not want to spend hours in an A&E if their condition is not an emergency but they still can’t wait for treatment.
“This is why we regularly review our services to ensure that we meet the needs of our changing population and take advantage of the latest technologies and innovations, as well as talking about potential changes with local people.
“But there is further work to be done. No major decisions have been made and they will only be made via a consultation process, following more conversations and engagement with the public.”
‘There’s no place like home’ for a quicker recovery and to ease the pressure on local hospital services
Senior clinicians across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent are appealing for families to help reduce the pressure on struggling services by supporting patients to return home from hospital as soon as they are ready.
Patients staying longer than necessary in hospital have added to the strain on A&E departments, which are already experiencing increased demand. This has caused even longer delays for patients who arrive requiring a bed.
Doctors are advising families and carers that going home once medically fit to do so has also proven to be better for the patient.
Robert Courteney-Harris, Medical Director at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, said:
“We think of a hospital as a place to get better, but spending an unnecessarily long time there can do more harm than good.
“This is because you can start to lose your mobility and your independence, which is the last thing most people want. An elderly relative lying needlessly in a hospital bed for a week will suffer loss of muscle strength and bulk which will take months to recover.”
Hospitals regularly have patients who no longer need a hospital bed but who are unable to be discharged while they wait for relatives to come and collect them or to agree where on-going care can be provided.
Andrew Donald, Accountable Officer of Stafford and Surrounds and Cannock Chase Clinical Commissioning Groups, added:
“The public really can make a difference, and we are appealing to families for their help in getting their loved ones home as quickly as possible.
“That may mean collecting them midweek rather than on the weekend and trusting us to discharge them to the place where they will get the best treatment, which may not necessarily be the closest option.”
Some patients may require a care package, which involves medical, social care and voluntary sector staff from across the county working together to make sure that they can safely be discharged.
Alan White, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing, said:
“No-one wants to see anybody in hospital for longer than they need to be and the county’s health and social care teams are working together to make sure patients who can leave hospital do so as soon as is safely possible, with the care they need continuing when they leave the ward.”
If your relative is ready to be discharged, please contact the ward for advice on how you can help.
You find out more on how to keep well and where to get expert advice at www.nhs.uk/staywell.