Aside from a further period of industrial action by junior doctors and consultants, this month has seen us step up our plans to better address the growing challenge around our elective waiting lists. We, along with our system colleagues, have also made some brilliant progress in achieving our key cancer targets, as well as in recovering our endoscopy performance.
Over the last year we have been working hard on recovering our endoscopy services and reducing waiting times to help ensure our patients get the answers they need about their health as soon as possible. Through our successful recovery plan – including increasing our activity and introducing new nurse led pathways which can identify patients who may be better treated through other services - we have been able to significantly reduce our waiting lists - which means we have now more than halved our active waiting list and reduced our planned waiting list for surveillance tests by 100%. This means faster diagnosis for our patients, as well as quicker treatment times and more timely surveillance tests.
As you know, in July we took the difficult decision to temporarily suspend the use of Entonox (gas and air) in our maternity services for the safety of our colleagues on our maternity unit at East Surrey Hospital. I know this was a concerning change for both our colleagues and our patients, and sadly there was no quick fix, but I am pleased to report that we will now have the equipment in place to make Entonox available again by the end of September. I want to express my thanks and appreciation to our patients and partners for bearing with us while we find the best possible solution.
Achieving our targets
Over the last 12 months, we as a trust have experienced some notable challenges with our cancer performance and are now working with our regional NHSE colleagues, Surrey Heartlands ICS and the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance on our recovery plans to ensure we have the best chance of delivering for our patients.
While we always strive to do more, it does feel like we are already seeing the significant improvements we had been hoping for a few months ago – with our trust being named as one of the top three providers in the country for lower gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis in June. We are also now achieving the national Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) with 75% of patients being informed of their diagnosis or exclusion of cancer within 28 days. We are also meeting the two week wait target for a first consultant appointment (the average is now 10 days) and the 62-day target for delivering the first treatment (now at a 58 day average). This is fantastic news for our patients, and while I know the challenge of staying there or making further improvements remains, this is definitely a milestone moment in our journey.
Sharing our vision
This month Stephen Lightfoot, Chair of the Sussex ICS, visited SASH to present NHS Sussex’s Shared Delivery Plan, visit our medical examiners team, as well as colleagues on Godstone Ward to understand more about their work on creating a new integrated inpatient care pathway to better support patients ahead of their discharge, which includes increasing the involvement of social care colleagues. The Multi-Disciplinary approach to working will be central to the way we will work in our two new inpatient wards once they are up and running.
New Patient Portal
In August we launched an exciting new patient portal called MySASH, which will not only reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to the Trusts’ greener NHS goals, but improve patient experience by enabling quicker, real-time updates on appointments and letters in one place, as well as giving patients the chance to complete pre-assessment health questionnaires in advance – speeding up treatment time when they arrive on site for clinical tests and procedures. The new portal, which is already proving really popular with our patients with over 12,000 sign ups in the first fortnight, is an important step in our digital journey and will provide patients with more secure service whilst helping us to become more financially sustainable. You can find out more on our website.
In August we saw six more days of industrial action from junior doctors and our consultants as a result of the ongoing national pay dispute with Government. In England over the six days of action over 100,000 inpatient and outpatient appointments were cancelled. These ongoing strikes continue to put significant pressure on our staff and our services, particularly our Emergency Department, the overall performance of which continues to be impacted, and I know the challenge of these will only increase as we prepare for the first joint strikes later in September.
Making the best of our workforce
In August, we appointed Karen Breen to the permanent position of Chief Operating Officer. Karen has been a hugely valuable member of the executive team over the last nine months in her interim role, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with her over the coming years.
Introducing our new SASH Charity Lottery
Finally, I am pleased to be able to share some exciting news with you – our trust charity, SASH Charity will this week launch its first public lottery. The new lottery combines great prizes, including a chance to win up to £25,000, with the opportunity to give back - with 50% of the proceeds from every entry directly benefiting patients, families and staff across Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. You can find out more about SASH Charity and the projects it supports here, or to sign up for the new lottery visit the Unity lottery website.