The man in charge of Brighton and Hove’s main hospital has promised to cut waiting times for accident and emergency (A&E) patients.
Matthew Kershaw, the chief executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said that an action was in place.
But the trust’s new boss told members of Brighton and Hove City Council that there was no quick fix.
He said that it could take as long as six months to sort out the various problems that had led to longer waits for patients.
He was speaking at Hove Town Hall after being asked to appear before the council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday (Tuesday 23 April).
His comments came as Health Service Journal (HSJ) said that more of the trust’s patients waited longer than 12 hours to be admitted than those of any other trust.
The magazine said that the Brighton hospital trust had recorded 52 waits of 12 hours since January.
It reported the trust as saying that waiting times had improved with no 12-hour waits in the past six weeks.
A report to councillors at yesterday’s meeting said: “The Royal Sussex County Hospital has for some time been experiencing severe and prolonged pressure on the capacity of its Emergency Department and overall unscheduled care services.
“This pressure has led to breaches in the four-hour A&E wait targets.
“In February this year the situation became more acute so the trust declared an ‘internal major incident’ in order to best focus its resources.”
It added that the Department of Health Emergency Care Intensive Support Team (ECIST) had been to the Royal Sussex and produced an independent report on A&E services.
Mr Kershaw said: “The ECIST report and our internal assessment confirmed that our deterioration in performance could not be put down to one issue.
“But we could be sending more patients home from the Emergency Department with the right support rather than admitting them.
“Our patients needing admission were waiting too long for a bed. This was causing delays for patients in our Emergency Department.
“Our patients stay too long in hospital.
“More timely decision-making will help get our system into better health for the benefit of all our patients.”
Dr Christa Beesley, the accountable officer at the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which funds the NHS locally, also spoke to councillors.
Dr Beesley said that up to half of all patients who turn up at A&E may not need to be there.
Both she and Mr Kershaw said that it would be wrong to blame patients for turning to A&E, especially at night or weekends.
Dr Beesley added: “I hardly dare mention 111 because it’s been such a disastrous launch.”
The NHS hopes that its 111 phone line will relieve some of the pressure on A&E departments around the country.
Dr Beesley and Mr Kershaw said that more needed to be done to make the public aware of the alternatives to A&E such as the Brighton Station Walk-in Centre.
Councillor Andrew Wealls said that the walk-in centre was not allowed to advertise. Dr Beesley said that was because it also operated as a general practice and GPs (general practitioners) were not allowed to advertise.
The committee asked Mr Kershaw to return in three months’ time to report on progress.
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