Sheffield hospital plans for winter

Sheffield's Northern General Hospital
Sheffield's Northern General Hospital
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Hospital chiefs have started making plans to avert a crisis on Sheffield’s wards this winter – saying ‘robust’ measures are needed to stop A&E being deluged with patients.

A new report to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ board of directors said the trust, which runs the Northern General and Royal Hallamshire hospitals, saw a ‘significant improvement’ in performance last winter compared to 2012.

More patients were seen within four hours in accident and emergency, despite a small increase in the number of people arriving at the ward, and there were fewer cases of vomiting bug norovirus.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent last winter on extra nurses, ambulances and more care beds.

But the report admitted that the ‘immediate withdrawal’ of these schemes at the end of March had a ‘significant adverse impact’, with standards seen to slump afterwards.

“Work has commenced to develop a robust winter plan for 2014/15,” said the report.

“In short, 2013/14 was not better because there was no snow, no norovirus and no flu and therefore fewer admissions – Sheffield Teaching Hospitals saw similar levels of emergency activity to the previous winter as well as improved performance, which must be attributable to key actions we undertook.”

Last winter there were 152 cases of norovirus at the Northern General, compared with 309 in 2012/13.

However delayed transfers of care – where patients are stuck in hospital despite being ready to leave, because of a shortage of social care places – hit a high of 144 in January.

“There were a group of patients transferred to intermediate care that stayed longer, and required greater input than was anticipated, resulting in increased delays for others and ultimately creating blockage to an effective transfer system,” said the report.

A programme is being drawn up with specific measures to keep services running smoothly.