Two bosses from Brighton and Hove’s biggest hospital have shared their hopes for improvement with a statutory health watchdog.
Rob Haigh, chief medical officer at University Hospitals Sussex, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and director of patient experience Nicole Chavaudra were speaking after a critical Care Quality Commission (CQC) report.
They told a Healthwatch Brighton and Hove board meeting that steps were being taken to address the CQC’s concerns about maternity services, surgery and emergency care.
But while some changes were already bringing about improvements, others would take longer, they said.
The £485 million revamp of the hospital, in Eastern Road, Kemp Town, would open with a suite of operating theatres.
This would free up space behind the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department – where there are currently eight operating theatres – enabling the emergency department to have more room and a more efficient layout.
There would also be an extra 100 beds in the new building – but the various benefits would not be seen until some time next year at the earliest
Steps had been taken, Dr Haigh said, to recruit extra midwives amid a national shortage as the NHS hospital trust wrestled with staffing challenges.
The hospital trust board met last week and board papers indicated that the organisation as a whole still had a staff turnover rate of almost 10 per cent, more than a thousand vacancies and more than 1 in 20 staff off sick in a month.
But figures were short on the ground in the presentation at the Healthwatch board meeting, despite talk of “grip” at the hospital trust.
And Healthwatch staff gave examples of poor routine communication between the hospital and patients – and offered its expertise in gathering patient feedback to help the Royal Sussex on its “improvement journey”.
One of the biggest challenges remains where patients who are medically fit can go when they are discharged.
No one from the new NHS Sussex Integrated Care Board or Brighton and Hove City Council – key partners in helping the hospital to free up beds – was able to attend this afternoon.
And to add to the queues in A&E, Dr Haigh said that medics were increasingly dealing with patients with a greater number of health problems at one time and more complex health problems.
Many more were attending with late-stage undiagnosed cancer – and other serious conditions – perhaps because they had not been seen sooner during the coronavirus pandemic.
And there were more patients turning up in A&E with serious and distressing mental health problems when there was often nowhere else to go.
Outside the emergency department, an urgent treatment centre staffed by GPs (general practitioners) now managed to see 40 to 50 patients a day who did not need A&E treatment.
Healthwatch Brighton and Hove members appeared to want more detail than was available, rather than broadbrush reassurances.
They nonetheless applauded the two trust executives who attended in person to share aspects of the current treatment plan for a variety of problems – not all of which are in their hands to control.
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