Wednesday 15th March, 2017
'Our NHS' (a campaign highlighting our local health and care services) looks this week at hospital care in Coastal West Sussex.
Did you know more than 9,400 people work for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, making it one of the largest employers in the area? The organisation, which runs St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, Worthing Hospital and Southlands in Shoreham, also benefits from more than 1,000 volunteers regularly giving freely of their time to help patients and staff.
It is thanks to this 10,000-strong family of local NHS colleagues that people living in West Sussex have access to some of the best hospital healthcare in the country, as recognised last year by the Care Quality Commission when it awarded the trust an overall rating of “Outstanding” - an accolade only four other acute hospital trusts in the country have received.
Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, commended the positive attitude of staff and their innovative solutions to continually enhancing the care they provide. He said:
“Staff we spoke with were exceptionally compassionate when talking about patients and we observed kindness not only towards patients but towards each other whilst on site.”
The caring culture at Western Sussex Hospitals helps the trust attract and retain excellent and engaged staff which, in turn, is critical to the organisation’s success at meeting the many challenges confronting the NHS.
For local hospitals, the most significant of these has been a continued increase in demand. For example, since the trust was awarded foundation trust status in 2013, the number of outpatients appointments has increased by 26% - which is the equivalent to 127,000 more attendances this year than was the case three years ago.
The most challenging demand, however, has arisen from people needing urgent care; this year there were 8,000 more emergency admissions than was the case three years ago and, over the same period, the number of over 85-year-olds needing urgent acute inpatient care has gone up by nearly 18%.
This winter, in particular, has been widely acknowledged as the most difficult for the NHS and locally A&E staff have managed unprecedented increases in the numbers of people coming to them for help. For example, in the first two weeks of January, attendances to accident and emergency in Worthing and Chichester were at times 30% higher than the year before.
Unfortunately, such peak demand has meant more patients have had to wait longer to be seen but, thanks to extraordinary efforts of staff working closely with colleagues in community health and social care, the trust remains the best performing organisation in NHS South, in terms of the four-hour A&E waiting time target.
At a public meeting of the trust board earlier this month, chief executive Marianne Griffiths praised her colleagues for “heroic and wonderful” achievements and trust chairman Mike Viggers said:
“our staff have done an amazing job, especially when you look at the national picture”.
Against many national performance measures, Western Sussex Hospitals is bucking the trend. For example, the organisation was the only trust in the country that is delivering a surplus to meet its Sustainability Transformation Fund savings targets at the end of 2016.
Again, while referral to treatment times are deteriorating across the country, with only 42% of trusts meeting the national target, at Western Sussex Hospitals, in December and January, more than 92% of patients received treatment within 18 weeks of referral. Over the same period, the trust also achieved its highest ever scores on the national Patient Safety Thermometer, peaking above 99%.
Supporting each of these achievements are staff project teams employing continuous improvement methodology as part of the trust’s unique Patient First programme, which has been widely lauded across the NHS for its innovative approach to continually enhancing patient care.
Four years ago, the leadership team of Western Sussex Hospitals visited one of the safest and best performing hospitals in the world to learn the secrets of their success.
At the Virginia Mason Institute in Seattle, USA, they discovered a hospital where staff were highly engaged and empowered to make improvements every day with expert training and support.
For Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of Western Sussex Hospitals, the visit was a “professional epiphany” and inspired the development of the trust’s leading Patient First programme.
The long-term approach to transforming hospital services for the better empowers front-line staff to make improvements themselves by enabling them with the training, tools and freedom to innovate.
The CQC endorsed Patient First in the trust’s “Outstanding” CQC report last year and the programme continues to receive many plaudits from other trusts, national commentators and political leaders.
The health secretary Jeremy Hunt visited the trust last October and speaking at a national NHS conference shortly after praised Western Sussex Hospitals for having “the strongest learning culture” he had witnessed “anywhere in the NHS”.
At St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands hospitals, hundreds of staff are receiving specialist problem-solving training while many more continually enhance services for patients by participating in daily improvement huddles and improvement projects.
From ward to board, through Patient First, colleagues have a shared focus on improving patient experience, quality of care, a reduction in waiting times, balancing the books and increasing staff engagement.
Across all of these measures the trust is making significant improvements, and excellent NHS Staff Survey results reveal more colleagues than ever before recommend Western Sussex Hospitals as a place to be cared for or to work.
A&E = accident and emergency – not anything and everything! Nationally, up to 40% of A&E attendances are deemed inappropriate and could be dealt with better in other care settings, helping hospitals prioritise the care of those most in need. If unsure how best to access care, please contact your GP, call NHS 111 or visit a pharmacy, unless you are seriously unwell or injured.
Discharge planning – anyone can become unwell or have an accident. It is important for loved ones to have “what if” conversations and talk about being prepared for, and after, a stay in hospital. Once patients no longer require acute hospital care it is important they are discharged in a timely way both for their own health and to release beds for others in need. It may be necessary to accept interim care arrangements that are not your first choice.
Attend appointments – each week more than 10,000 people attend hospital appointments on time at Western Sussex Hospitals, helping to ensure they get the care they need at the right time and that others do not wait longer than necessary and valuable resources are not wasted through rescheduling.
Staff - the trust is always looking to appoint new nurses and doctors, as well as support staff and apprentices - see the latest vacancies.
Volunteers – more than 1,000 volunteers regularly give freely of their time to help patients and staff in the hospitals - find out more about volunteering.
Members – around 7,000 people living locally have become members of the trust – find out more about becoming a member.
Fundraiser – the trust’s dedicated charity Love Your Hospital is strongly supported by local population and business community – read more about our fundraisers.