THE NHS trust responsible for Worthing Hospital is ‘critically’ close to catastrophe as it struggles to meet the demands of increases in referrals and admissions, it was revealed at a board of directors meeting.
Figures from Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s latest performance report revealed that both A&E and cancer departments had seen significant increases in patient demand in April and May, compared with the same period last year.
Emergency admissions in A&E were up 7.7 per cent, from 3,840 to 4,134, and attendances were up 1.6 per cent, from 11,239 to 11,421.
Referrals under the cancer two-week rule were 18.5 per cent higher than April, 2013, and the trust saw 24.8 per cent more patients following two-week urgent cancer referrals.
Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, director Jon Furmston said the trust was looking at a system which was being ‘pushed to its extreme’. Mr Furmston asked Jane Farrell, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive, if the trust was in any way near a ‘catastrophic situation’.
Ms Farrell said: “I think we are critically close to that exact situation, which is why there have been quite extensive discussions to really evaluate the scale of the risk across the system.”
Despite the increases, the trust met, and in the case of A&E, exceeded its compliance targets. In April, 97.37 per cent of patients waited fewer than four hours from arrival in A&E to admission, transfer, or discharge, against a national target of 95 per cent. However, there is still concern that the trust would not be able to cope if the demands continued to increase.
Marianne Griffiths, the trust’s chief executive, said: “I think the level of risk has never been so high in five years. The whole system’s delivery mechanisms are not delivering. It feels as though things are out of control and our current delivery systems are not managing it. We’re all working well together, and that’s something really positive, but it’s sill not working.”
Ms Farrell, said: “Our staff are working wonders to give their patients good, timely care. However, health services across the region have been under significant pressure for some time and this has intensified in May. Our emergency teams are continuing to see large numbers of patients who are either very elderly, very frail, or both.”
Ms Farrell added that the trust had a ‘comprehensive’ plan in place and assured patients the trust was working ‘hard’ to minimise any delays to their treatment.