'Amazing' Sheffield NHS staff praised for averting worst of winter crisis across city hospitals

Northern General Hospital
Northern General Hospital
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NHS staff in Sheffield were today praised as ‘amazing’ after averting a winter crisis – as A&E and hospital services across the country face huge pressures.

Hospital trusts across the country have struggled to cope with the deluge of patients as winter bites.

Hallamshire Hospital

Hallamshire Hospital

But in Sheffield frontline staff have been working round-the-clock while behind the scenes health chiefs have planned months in advance to keep on top of the huge demands.

Doctors, nurses and healthcare staff have been praised by Sheffield NHS bosses for their tireless efforts during the challenging winter period.

Dr David Throssell, Medical Director of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Of course we still get peaks in demand which are challenging even with our plans in place but our staff are amazing and particularly over the last few weeks there has not been one person in our hospitals or community services that has not pulled out all the stops to ensure we have been able to continue to provide emergency care whilst at the same time limiting the impact on planned care.”

John Somers, Chief Executive of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re very proud of the dedication and compassion shown by our staff during one of the busiest winters to date.”

Sheffield’s main A&E department at the Northern General is hitting national targets to see patients within four hours.

And at Shffielde Children’s Hospital, 98 per cent of youngsters are being seen within four hours.

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Health chiefs in Sheffield are ‘confident’ they can cope as A&E departments across the country struggle – event if the city is hit by winter viruses, vomiting bugs or flu.

Hospitals and health services in the city have coped with the spike in demand over winter by planning months in advance.

Latest figures from NHS Digital showed 94.7 per cent of people visiting A&E at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital in 2015-16 were seen within four hours.

Hospital bosses said eight out of 10 patients are treated and discharged or admitted within four hours of arrival at the emergency department.

For the current 2016/2017 statistics, the figure is 84.6 per cent – but hospital bosses expect to see this figure level out after the usual annual increase in winter admissions.

Action taken in Sheffield to help cope with the rise in demand has included opening extra beds and deploying additional nursing and medical staff working alongside community and social care teams.

The British Red Cross – called in to hospitals across the country to help – confirmed it has not been called in to assist in Sheffield.

Dr Zak McMurray, GP and medical director at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “However, winter isn’t over yet. If we get any long spells of bad weather or sustained periods of winter viruses, like the vomiting bug or flu, then this adds to the pressure but we are confident that through our close work with all the health and social care organisations in the city, that we can deal with pressures collectively if they arise.”

Dr David Throssell, medical director of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We know that winter brings additional pressures for the NHS and so we plan many months in advance to ensure we can try to respond to the increased emergency demand and continue to carry out as much planned care as possible.

“Of course we still get peaks in demand which are challenging even with our plans in place but our staff are amazing and particularly over the last few weeks there has not been one person in our hospitals or community services that has not pulled out all the stops to ensure we have been able to continue to provide emergency care whilst at the same time limiting the impact on planned care.”

He added: “Our services are still incredibly busy and we value the public’s support in ensuring they use the right service for the care they need.

“If people only use A&E for emergencies and use other services such as the NHS Walk in Centre on Broad Lane, GPs, pharmacists and the Minor Injuries Unit at the Hallamshire Hospital for less urgent care then this helps us manage this very busy winter period and focus our efforts on those patients who are in most urgent need.”

John Somers, chief executive of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said: “We work hard to develop tried and tested measures throughout the hospital to deal with these pressures and we’re pleased to provide reassurance for parents all over South Yorkshire that every child that comes to us will receive high quality care.”

Dr McMurray said working across the city had helped services cope with spike in patient numbers.

He said: “Winter is always a difficult time of year for the NHS but a partnership of all the major health and social care organisations in the city, including our GP and community colleagues, Sheffield City Council, the city’s hospitals, mental health trust, and voluntary sector organisations have been working closely together to make sure Sheffield people receive the best possible levels of care at our busiest time of year.

“We have all done more detailed winter planning than ever before, starting at the end of last winter and informed by our learning. Our priorities have been to reduce the number of people admitted to hospitals, and to improve systems to get patients the right health or social care as quickly as possible, with a particular focus on weekends and holiday periods.

“Our plan supports the existing system to be able to manage an increase in demand during winter, when the NHS is coping with patients with winter related illnesses, but also includes making a number of improvements that will impact significantly on patients.

“This includes investing in additional support in people’s homes to help them stay at home rather than be taken into hospital, additional patient transport to help people home from hospital without delay, additional mental health support particularly around supporting people in crisis and a range of services to help families care for ill children at home.

“Sheffield residents should also have seen additional urgent GP appointments available if they need them, as we have supported primary care to make sure people who need to access their GP over winter are able to. This includes extra urgent evening and weekend appointments at four GP hubs in the city which can be booked through calling 111 when GP practices are closed.”