Busy summer at Ipswich A&E means ‘pressure never releases’ for staff

Winter pressures are a thing of the past at Ipswich Hospital A&E. Picture: ALEX FAIRFULL

Winter pressures are a thing of the past at Ipswich Hospital A&E. Picture: ALEX FAIRFULL - Credit: Archant

There is now “no let up” for A&E staff at Ipswich Hospital, the chief executive has said, as consultants are working 18-hour shifts in what used to be the department’s quietest time of the year.

With ‘winter pressures’ a thing of the past, boss Nick Hulme said the solution to keeping on top of the constant high demand was not to build more beds, because there would be no one to staff them, but to get the health and social care systems working in greater harmony so patients could leave hospital quicker.

“August used to be a quieter month,” Mr Hulme said during a meeting of the trust’s board members today.

“For me it’s a reflection of how health and social care has moved on in the past few years – there’s no let up in the summer.

“It’s extraordinary that we have no let up now and I think we need to be very mindful of that, particularly for our staff.

“We do need to be reflecting that in how we design some of our jobs going forward. There is no natural downtime now and we need to think about how we can create downtime for the organisation.”

Wednesday was particularly hectic in Ipswich A&E, compounded by a cohort of new junior doctors starting, but Mr Hulme said the situation was kept under control.

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During the meeting, Mr Hulme said: “I was amazed to find when I walked in this morning, with the ED (emergency department) pressures yesterday, to find absolute calm. Extraordinary recovery.

“There were an exhausted but calm group of staff. Consultants were here for 18 hours to make sure patients were safe and there is a real sense of team.

“It’s really powerful that the pressure never releases but even in these incredibly difficult and busy times there is a real sense of having patients at the heart.”

There are around 75 to 100 patients in a bed at Ipswich Hospital at any one time who have no clinical need to be there, Mr Hulme said.

Although patients are well enough to leave hospital, they may need ongoing support, and a common reason for so-called bed-blocking is a lack of availability in social care services, like care homes.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Hulme said: “I think if we just got the systems and processes between health and social care right there would be no need for more beds. Part of the work of the STP (Sustainability and Transformation Plan) is how we can deal with the massive demand growth.”

Neill Moloney, managing director of Ipswich Hospital, said the trust relied on locum workers to staff A&E because “people are choosing not to work in it” due to the “pressurised environment”. Although he added: “That’s not unique to us, it’s true of every ED in the country.”

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