Aside from a further period of industrial action by junior doctors and consultants, this month we have published our new five-year Trust strategy, facilitated a visit from the CQC and launched our annual flu campaign. We have also continued to work with our system colleagues on progressing our new Community Diagnostic Centre at Crawley and supported plans for winter respiratory care.
In September we saw four more days of industrial action from junior doctors and our consultants, including their first joint strike, due to their ongoing pay dispute with Government. Last week’s action saw 129,913 inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled. There’s no doubt that this extended strike period, and the first joint strike, put significant pressure on our staff and our services. That’s why, in addition to our mitigation plans, we also stepped up our communications approach with stronger public messaging on the disruption expected. As we prepare for further strike action next week, I know our doctors will make sure our services are kept running safely for our patients, just as they have done with all previous strike action.
In addition to the week-long heatwave in September which had an impact on our theatres, we also stepped into business continuity for three days to ensure the safety of incoming patients and help increase the flow of patients around our hospital. This supported our teams in ensuring those coming into our Emergency Department, especially those who were acutely unwell, got access to the right care on the right wards as quickly as possible. I would like to thank our community and ICS colleagues for their support during this period.
We have seen significant improvements in our Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) cancer performance over the last few months, with 75% of patients being informed of their diagnosis or exclusion of cancer within 28 days, and our trust being named as one of the top three providers in the country for lower gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis. I am pleased to report that in recognition of our continued improvement across the key indicators, we have now been removed from the NHS’ formal national oversight process. This is great news for our patients, and while I know we will continue to strive for further improvements, this is definitely a milestone moment in our journey.
Maternity – Entonox and CQC
In September the CQC carried out a planned visit to our maternity services. Their work regulating NHS services is incredibly important for patient confidence, showing that services are safe, effective and that we listen and act on patient feedback to ensure constant improvement. It was also an opportunity for us to show the CQC and therefore our patients the great work we do at SASH, the improvements we have made and the areas we will be focusing on in the future to ensure the best possible care for our patients and their families. It was a true team effort, and it was great to hear the CQC’s reflections on how our maternity team provide a calm and positive environment for patients, with the CQC also reflecting on the focus on tackling health inequalities and how colleagues feel safe and comfortable in being able to raise their concerns to our leadership team.
In maternity, we also updated colleagues and patients on the decision to reinstate Entonox (gas and air) on our maternity unit at East Surrey Hospital. Entonox was suspended back in early July due to concerns of overexposure for staff on our maternity unit. While it took longer than planned, the new equipment is now in place and following staff training on Entonox use, was reinstated on 22 September.
Plans for our new Community Diagnostic Centre at Crawley are progressing well, and we’ve now received the architectural designs for the project. We plan to share these with patient groups in the coming weeks for their feedback. We will use best practice and feedback from our communities to make the environment accessible and welcoming for all of our patients. This it to ensure we achieve our aim of increasing access to diagnostics to improve health outcomes.
Each month we see an average of 33 trauma patients in our emergency department. To get a better understanding of these patients, last month, the transfusion team launched a research trial as part of an innovative multi-centre study in collaboration with Kent, Surrey, and Sussex Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. The aim of the Study Whole Blood in Frontline Trauma (SWiFT) research trial is to establish if whole blood will reduce the risk of death, the need for hospital transfusion, and improve outcomes for patients involved in serious incidents. You can find out more about the trial here.
New trust strategy
As a Trust our priorities and the way people can and want to receive care has changed. We need to ensure our plans over the next few years meet those demands, as well as our wider NHS goals as we recover from the pandemic, work in new ways as a system and respond to a tougher economic climate. I am pleased to say that this month we launched our new five-year Trust strategy, which 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. I want to thank all of you who provided feedback as a part of that journey and worked with us on bringing this new strategy to life.
This month we also launched our annual staff flu vaccination programme through on-site drop-in clinics. Nearly 2,000 SASH staff have now had their flu jab, helping protect themselves, their families and their patients. Alongside our flu programme, following the latest NHS England and Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on the increased risk of the newest COVID-19 variant, we are developing a plan to offer the COVID-19 booster on site. In the meantime, colleagues are being signposted to the various walk-in vaccination clinics.
In September we launched the 2023 NHS staff survey, which is now in its twentieth year. The survey is run independently to ensure confidentiality, quality and accuracy. I encourage all colleagues to have their say, because it will help to make SASH an even better place to work and receive care.
In preparation for making the survey fully digital next year in line with our greener NHS and net zero ambitions, this year we are also trialling a new digital option for staff. To signal the start of our greener survey goals, for every 500 digital responses received this year we have pledged to plant a tree in our new forest area at the back of our new car park.