It’s hard to believe we have already reached the end of October and are just two months away from the end of the year but this month has certainly been a busy one for our trust.
We started the month with a further period of industrial action by junior doctors and consultants, we also welcomed our first patients into our two new wards – Surrey and Sussex, saw our first covid peak of the season and launched our annual SASH Star Awards for 2023 to help recognise the contributions of staff who have gone above and beyond.
This month we also shared our support for colleagues affected by the tragic and distressing events in Israel and Gaza, reminding them of the support available through our wellbeing programmes and services.
In October for the first time we saw four days of back to back joint industrial action from junior doctors and consultants due to their ongoing pay dispute with Government. This month’s joint action was particularly challenging for us as a Trust coinciding with rising levels of covid infections and staff sickness - putting significant pressure on our staff and our services. As we reflect on the first six months of the financial year, we are starting to see the impact that these extended periods of action are having on our services and our finances.
Welcoming our first patients into our new wards
This month we reached a really exciting milestone for SASH as we finally opened and welcomed our first patients into our two new wards, Surrey and Sussex. The wards which opened on Monday 16 October signalled an exciting new way of working for us - including more collaboration with our Surrey and Sussex Social Services colleagues on wards dedicated to patients with intermediate care needs – giving them the support they need to get back home or into the community sooner. For the first time since the pandemic we also re-established our surgical centre as a day procedure unit, and restored use of our physio gym to give more patients the space to reach their recovery and discharge goals.
The move was a huge team effort across our trust and involved moving a number of patients under strict infection control measures, and re-establishing the function of some of our key medical and surgical wards to ensure our patients are in the right beds for their clinical needs first time. This will in turn help us to reduce wait times in our Emergency Department, protect and progress our vital elective work and reduce length of stay, especially as we strengthen our new ways of working. It’s a really important step in delivering safe, quality care for our patients as well as better patient experiences, especially as we head into the winter months.
Protecting patients, staff and visitors
In October, in response to a surge in COVID infection rates and staff sickness at East Surrey Hospital, we took the decision to re-introduce the wearing of face masks in clinical areas for all staff, patients and visitors to help protect those moving around our site. While these infection control measures will be kept under regular review throughout the autumn and winter months, this felt like a necessary step to help curb the current infections rates. To help further protect colleagues and patients this winter, alongside our current staff flu jab offer, we also began working with our colleagues at Alliance for Better Care to deliver COVID boosters at East Surrey Hospital. Vaccinations remain our best defence against flu and COVID, that’s why we are keen to make as easy as possible for staff to get their seasonal boosters.
This month Tim Briggs, National Director for Clinical Improvement and Elective Recovery at NHS England, visited our trust to look at our theatre utilisation, outpatients, paediatric elective recovery and cancer. While we will be looking carefully to see what we can learn from our partners and fellow providers who might be doing things differently in these areas, it was great to hear that our theatre day case performance rates are in a really good place at over 84% - the highest in the system.
As we begin our winter preparations, over the coming weeks we will be working with our partners across Surrey Heartlands on our operational planning, including a winter patient information video to promote key winter messages such as the alternatives to the Emergency Department for people with less urgent or non-life-threatening illness or injury. This will help spread the demand across the wider NHS system and ensure that our Emergency Department can help those patients with the most urgent clinical need.
New trust strategy
To ensure our plans over the next few years meet the demands of our patients and local communities, as well as our wider NHS goals as we recover from the pandemic, last month we launched our new five-year Trust strategy. This refreshes the strategic priorities we will be working to and identifies the key operational goals we have shaped through engaging with our patients, partners and colleagues over the last few months. That new strategy is now live on our website, so please do reach out to us if you would like any more information.
This month we launched the SASH Star Awards for 2023. This is our chance to recognise the brilliant work of our staff including all those who have gone above or beyond for our patients. Every year we welcome nominations from members of staff, partners, patients and the local community – so please don’t miss your chance to nominate those who you feel deserve particular recognition for the difference they have made at SASH over the last year. You can use the form on our website to nominate an individual or a team – nominations close on Friday 3 November.
Chief of Medicine
Finally, this month Dr Ben Mearns stepped down from his role as Chief of Medicine after a decade of service. While we will still be benefiting from his expertise and experience for some time to come, we have appointed Dr Natalie Broomhead as our new Chief of Medicine. She takes up that role from this week.