Weekend Diagnosis: Changes being put in place to improve services

Published: 17 February 2016

Mairead McAlindenThis Weekend Diagnosis is from Mairead McAlinden, our Chief Executive

This Weekend Diagnosis is from Mairead McAlinden, our Chief Executive

I must start this week’s column with an apology. Our health and care system has been operating under intense pressure since the beginning of the year, and many people have not had the excellent experience we would want for them.

We have had to prioritise the continued safe-running of urgent and emergency services, including during the recent junior doctors’ strike, and this has involved postponing some planned operations and appointments.

I know this will have caused inconvenience and distress and I sincerely apologise to all our patients who have been affected for any delay to their treatment.

At the same time, I must pay tribute to our staff for their sustained efforts to deal with the current pressures. They are doing their very best to manage the many demands placed on them at this very busy time, including working extra hours and working in different areas to support the teams under most pressure.

But the pressure this places on staff is not sustainable or fair and we are delaying planned care, which creates other risks and concerns. So we must be brave and make the changes we know will deliver long-term improvement.

It cannot be about doing more of the same, or working in isolation to sort one bit of the system — it’s about changing how and where we provide care, and how we improve our responsiveness and the safety and experience of our care.

We are planning many changes in the coming weeks and months to improve services:

reviewing how we use our beds so we have appropriate speciality beds where and when we need them, a shorter length of stay and a better patient experience

working with GPs so they can directly refer their patients for medical or surgical admission to hospital without going through the emergency department or spending a much shorter time there before getting to the right service.

Improving how we manage discharges for people with complex care needs, so they are able to leave hospital sooner and receive the right care in the right place for them.

Discharging more patients before midday, so more beds are available earlier in the day when they are most needed.

Opening new urgent care centres in Newton Abbot and Torquay later this year.

Within the next three months we will be launching a new community-based service to better support people with long term conditions.

These changes are not easy – if they were, we would have made them by now — but I am confident by doing them quickly and safely we will make real improvements.

This is what our staff want and what our patients and clients deserve. We have a clear improvement plan, based on compelling evidence of what works well and I believe these actions will deliver a better service in the coming weeks and months.