A&E waits improving across east Kent

27 October 2017

Emergency waiting times in east Kent have improved in the last two weeks, one month in to the improvement plan announced by east Kent’s NHS on 26 September.

Data collected by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust shows a 5% rise in the number of patients being seen, treated, admitted to a hospital bed or discharged within four hours over the last two weeks across the Emergency Departments and Minor Injuries Units.

In the first two weeks of October, East Kent Hospitals’ performance on the four-hour standard averaged at 73.3%. In the last two weeks, the hospitals have seen an improvement in standards, reporting 76.1% last week and 78.7% at the time of release.

Dr Anil Verma, an Emergency Department Consultant who has recently joined East Kent Hospitals as Medical Director for Urgent Care and Long Term Conditions, said: “Staff across the hospitals and wider NHS have been working extremely hard to improve standards for patients.

“We are just at the beginning of our improvement plan, but the early signs of progress are very encouraging. Behind every statistic is a patient, and that’s why everyone is working so hard to achieve higher standards. We want to make sure patients don’t wait longer than they need to, and make sure all patients are treated in an appropriate environment.”

The NHS announced its 12-month plan to improve emergency care services in east Kent last month.

The plan includes:

  • ·Identifying patients who are frail or at risk of developing pneumonia earlier, so they are less likely to need hospital care

  • ·Expanding the service that allows many patients to receive hospital treatment without the need for an overnight stay

  • ·24/7 mental health teams working in hospital emergency departments to ensure patients have fast access to appropriate services

  • ·Ensuring people don’t stay in hospital longer than they need, by improving processes within the hospitals and within the wider NHS and social care system, including further investment in therapies staff, who ensure patients have the support they need to be able to leave hospital safely, for example, with specialist equipment at home

  • ·Expanding services in the community so that rapid response teams are seeing patients within two hours of a referral from the emergency department.

Building work at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, to expand and improve the facilities in its Emergency Department is scheduled to complete in the next two weeks.

Dr Verma said that the Trust’s priority is to continue recruiting more staff. “The NHS is a challenging but very rewarding place to work,” he said. “In east Kent we have the opportunity to make a real difference for patients, which is why I chose to work here. Attracting staff here to do just that is a priority.”

Meanwhile, East Kent’s NHS is urging people to be prepared for winter.

“If you are vulnerable to illness, taking advantage of the NHS flu vaccine, planning ahead to make sure you don’t run out of vital medication should bad weather hit and ensuring you get advice from your GP or pharmacist if you suspect problems, are all practical ways to avoid falling ill this winter,” said Simon Perks, Accountable Officer for NHS Ashford and NHS Canterbury and Coastal CCGs.

The NHS is also encouraging people to get to know their local minor injuries unit and consider using these rather than the emergency departments – these units have a vast range of services for quickly treating injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, minor cuts, wounds, insect and animal bites, eye injuries and burns and scalds.

You can find the right health service nearest to you on the NHS ‘Health Help Now’ app. The WaitLess app combines current waiting times at all units with up-to-the-minute travel information to help you decide where to head to for faster treatment for minor injuries.

Long-term plans

The Trust has a long-term strategy which includes investing in larger emergency departments and co-locating specialist services so that patients are seen faster by teams of experts working together. The NHS in East Kent is planning to take its proposals out to public consultation in spring 2018.

Our current strategy includes reconfiguring services across the Trust’s three acute hospitals in Ashford, Margate and Canterbury. This is our early thinking for how we could use the hospitals we have now, it doesn't rule out looking at other emerging possibilities, such as building a new hospital in east Kent in the future if that provided the best outcomes for patients and there is the money, support and opportunity to do so.

The Trust has had an offer from a developer to build the shell of a hospital in Canterbury, this is being assessed to determine whether it has the potential to be included as an option.