New bid to reduce A&E waits

A DEDICATED “squad” could be set up at a Suffolk hospital to move on patients who have spent too long in accident and emergency, it emerged last night.

Will Clarke

A DEDICATED “squad” could be set up at a Suffolk hospital to move on patients who have spent too long in accident and emergency, it emerged last night.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds missed it's A&E waiting time targets last year because too many patients were awaiting treatment more than four hours.

As a result, the hospital has drawn up an action plan to bring treatment waiting times down at its emergency unit.

One option being looked at by health chiefs is the formation of what it calls a “bed squad” to help clear accident and emergency of patients once they are treated.

The team's role, according to the hospital, would be to “facilitate transfer of patients to (the) discharge lounge” and would include porters and doctors.

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The Government-set target for emergency unit turnover was 98% within four hours. West Suffolk Hospital last year achieved 96.95%.

Gwen Nuttall, the hospital's chief operating officer, said: “The trust is constantly reviewing its systems and processes to improve patient care and a detailed plan outlining a range of measures has been drawn up.

“The plan includes appointments of new clinical staff, such as consultants and junior doctors, and allocating extra portering resources to help transfer patients from the emergency unit into the main hospital.

“The Trust is also involved with external agencies such as social services, the ambulance trust and the Primary Care Trust to work on joint planning to improve care for patients.

“The Trust met all of its other care targets during 2007/ 08 which means that patients are getting better and faster treatment than ever before at West Suffolk Hospital.”

Bringing down the emergency waiting time is now a top priority at the hospital.

In his report to the hospital's board, chief executive Chris Bown said the coming year would be “challenging” and he praised “significant improvements” completed during 2007/08.

He said: “The trust delivered all core national targets with the exception of the maximum waiting time of 98% of patients attending the emergency unit being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

“The trust under-achieved this target with a year end position of 96.95%. An action plan was agreed by the board to ensure that immediate improvements were achieved.”

Other measures being looked into to bring down waits for emergency treatment include recruiting additional doctors, changing the way ambulances deliver patients to the hospital and improve the existing triage system, in which the needs of patients are ranked according to need.

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