Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Worthing and Southlands hospitals, and St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, said staff were working in a ‘tough NHS environment’ which was facing many challenges.
Speaking at the trust’s annual meeting on Monday, Ms Griffiths said: “We work with the system but we don’t need to get too involved in politics. We need to keep focussed on what we should do right for our patients.”
In a bid to improve care at the hospitals, a trust-wide approach called Patient First has been put in place. The scheme looks at how patients can have the best experience while they are in hospital with better coordination between services.
George Findlay, medical director, gave examples of how the scheme was being used at the trust – through ‘one stop’ outpatient clinics and ambulatory care – which gives patients who are well enough the same treatment they would receive at hospital, while allowing them to go home.
Ms Griffiths praised the trust’s achievements over the past year – noting its highs and lows including the MSK contract, winter pressures, stroke services and staffing levels.
“We are the eighth best performing A&E in the NHS,” said Ms Griffiths.
“Our staff ceaselessly and relentlessly make sure we keep our patients safe. I’m very proud of them and proud of what we deliver.”
She said she was ‘delighted’ the trust had also improved stroke services – after data recorded in 2013 showed patients were not getting the quality of stroke care experienced by other hospitals.
“We recognised we weren’t getting the scans done as fast as possible,” said Ms Griffiths.
However a ‘tough’ winter brought many challenges for the trust and for two months over winter the it did not meet recommended A&E targets.
“For the first time ever I was having trouble sleeping at night,” said Ms Griffiths.
“It was a really tough time for our staff.
“Our community trust colleagues couldn’t recruit and they shut community beds. Our primary care services were overwhelmed. Our out of hours couldn’t cope and even our 111 services really struggled with the whole thing. We saw a massive increase in attendances. Even though we had planned for winter we had not planned for anything this excessive. It is a good thing that we have people living longer – but our over 85s will need more health interventions. That is something we are really working with our CCGs on.”
Ms Griffiths said the whole organisation ‘really pulled together’ with governors coming into make staff a cups of tea and everyone who was clinically trained getting involved in patient care.
The NHS is still struggling to recruit nurses – due to a national shortage – and the trust still needs another 150 nurses. However, jobs have been offered to 149 Filipino nurses who are due to start in November.
“Hopefully this will be a real boost for the organisation,” she said.
Chichester District councillor Tony Dignum, who was at the meeting, questioned whether a seven day service was a priority for the trust.
Ms Griffiths said although the trust was working on a plan it was ‘not feasible’ at the moment and admitted she had ‘concerns’ for the future.
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