Trusts welcome feedback on patient flow at Northumberland hospital

The Northumbria Hospital at Cramlington.
The Northumbria Hospital at Cramlington.

Recommendations have been made to improve patient flow at hospital.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust have welcomed feedback from the ‘emergency care improvement programme’ (ECIP).

As part of NHS Improvement, the ECP team spend a week with staff at Northumbria hospital, in Cramlington, and in the ambulance service’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to see the work taking place to address the challenges experienced with delayed ambulance handovers.

In their report, the ECIP team praised the ‘commitment of staff to provide first class patient care’ which it described as ‘exceptional’ and ‘epitomised all that is right about care in the NHS’.

The ECIP team made a number of recommendations to build on work already underway to improve flow of patients, including:-

• reducing the number of less serious attendances at The Northumbria hospital by streaming patients into more appropriate care settings;

• ensuring better use of ambulances for patient transport to ensure GP referred patients are brought into hospital earlier in the day;

• improving bed management across the system;

• improving patient flow between The Northumbria and general hospitals.

A spokesperson for NHS Improvement said: “The positive impact on patient care is already very clear but with any transformational change of this scale, there will always be challenges to overcome.”

“Our visit last year enabled us to learn about the improvement work taking place locally and we are now able to share this learning more widely for the benefit of patient care in other more challenged parts of the NHS across the country.”

Some of the key findings, acknowledged by the ECIP team, include:

• clear evidence that the new model of emergency care introduced by Northumbria has directly benefitted patient care with good ‘front-end senior decision making and clinical pathways’ – principles which should now be shared across the wider NHS;

• the fact that long ambulance handover delays are not a permanent feature at The Northumbria hospital, but do follow a predictable pattern from early afternoon to evening when a high number of GP referrals arrive;

• the shared view that these ambulance handover issues are a symptom of wider challenges to efficient patient flow across the whole health and care system;

• an unprecedented rise in demand for urgent and emergency care services across the NHS nationally which has continued since The Northumbria hospital opened in summer 2015.

David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We wholeheartedly welcome the feedback from the ECIP team and continue to work closely with all partners to collectively plan for the increasing and unprecedented demand placed on all parts of our health and care system.

“It is always reassuring to read such encouraging independent feedback about the changes we have made to our emergency care model and the positive impact on patient care which all staff and everyone living in Northumberland and North Tyneside should feel proud of.

“The ECIP team rightly recognise that delivering large scale change in the NHS is not easy.

“It is really important, however, that we continue to innovate and change the way we do things, together with our partners, in the very best interests of safe and high quality patient care.”

Paul Liversidge, chief operating officer at North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Hospital handover delays are a system-wide issue and we continue to work closely with Northumbria Healthcare, the clinical commissioning group and community health services to tackle the range of factors that contribute to ambulance handover delays.”

Dr Stewart Findlay, chairman of the North East and North Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said: “The Northumbria hospital has brought a major stride forward in quality of care, and NHS organisations across the region are working closely together to address some highly complex issues around the way patients flow through the system.”