West Suffolk Hospital boss says more capacity needed in health system to meet growing demand

Stephen Dunn with hospital staff. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Stephen Dunn with hospital staff. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of the region’s only ‘outstanding’ hospital has said more beds will be needed across Suffolk’s care system to meet future demand.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

West Suffolk Hospital has experienced its busiest ever winter, with on average an extra 28 patients visiting its A&E every day compared to the previous year and a 6% increase in admissions.

On January 2, action was taken to open “additional surge” beds at the hospital because it was fully occupied.

With pressures “far exceeding” expectations, boss Dr Stephen Dunn said capacity needed to be reviewed ahead of next winter.

He added: “In Suffolk we have got the second oldest county in the country. In 2012, one in five was over 65, in 2021 it’s projected to be one in four, by 2037 it’s projected to be one in three, and so we have an ageing population and as a consequence of the various health conditions that we have as we age that puts year-on-year pressure on health services.

You may also want to watch:

“People can help by staying fit, staying active, making right personal choices around not smoking, exercising, eating the right things, but equally there will be year-on-year increases in demands on health and care services and despite being an ‘outstanding’ hospital we are not immune to some of those pressures and I do think we will need to look to invest in beds in the community and in the hospital to meet future demands.”

Despite challenges, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) was awarded the highest possible rating from the Care Quality Commission in January.

Dr Dunn said this achievement was down to the trust’s “phenomenal” staff, and the “innovative” initiatives being introduced.

Most Read

These include a “support to go home service”, where patients awaiting social care packages are given interim support in their homes by WSFT staff so they are able to leave hospital. Since September this scheme has saved more than 760 hospital beds days, Dr Dunn said.

The trust has invested in rehabilitation beds at sites in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket for patients fit to leave hospital but still on the road to recovery.

WSFT is one of a handful of trusts in the country to employ a public health consultant whose job it is to find ways to prevent illnesses.

The hospital has also managed to shave a day off the average length of stay by cracking down on delays in care through initiatives like the Red to Green scheme.

While WSFT is doing all it can to evolve services to meet needs, Dr Dunn called on families to help by ensuring patients were able to leave hospital as soon as possible so beds were only filled with the 400 sickest people in west Suffolk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter