KeepHealthCare.ORG – NHS in Gwent must learn lessons of a challenging winter
GWENT’S health board has pledged to learn lessons from the busiest and most challenging winter for the NHS in Wales, to try to improve things for patients next year.
Despite detailed winter planning for 2017/18 – with more than £2.2 million invested in a range of measures designed to help health services cope with predicted increases in demand – hospitals and the ambulance service struggled to cope for long periods.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s review of its winter plan concludes that many of its elements – such as more emergency and acute medicine cover in hospitals, more beds and the staff to man them, and extra discharge and home support – were delivered.
But a combination of factors combined to cause problems such as long A&E waits and waits for beds, that the plan had been designed to minimise.
These factors included the worst flu season for seven years and prolonged periods of extremely cold weather that resulted in more very sick people requiring hospital treatment.
Attendances at emergency departments in Gwent hospitals fell by almost 4,000 (six per cent), to 61,298 during November 2017-March 2018, compared to the same period the previous winter.
But of those patients who did attend, more were assessed as being ‘majors’, or very poorly, requiring more attention and admission.
‘Majors’ cases at Gwent emergency departments increased by 2,144 (almost 10 per cent), to 24,055 during November 2017-March 2018, again compared to the previous winter.
There were also delays to discharges at the other end of the hospital system, meaning that at times there was a lack of beds for those requiring them.
Waits of more than 12 hours in A&E – as reported in the Argus earlier this week – subsequently rose, with the March figure topping 750.
Health board medical director Dr Paul Buss said hospitals were at their highest level of escalation (level four – extreme pressure) for the longest period during the winter.
He added that staff saw more very sick patients, requiring more clinical interventions and more assessment.
The review report states that the health board will work with the ambulance service, social services and other partners to strengthen arrangements for next winter.