Why Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS trust is dealing with the winter pressures

Calderdale Royal Hospital
Calderdale Royal Hospital

A hospital trust is weathering winter well this year – in contrast to last year when Calderdale was in the grip of “the beast from the east” snowstorms.

A milder winter has helped Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust to improve performance that sees it among the best in the country for getting patients home after their treatment, being in the top ten nationally for delayed transfer of care (DTOC) performance – and January 2019’s figures are better than the December figures which ranked Calderdale eighth.

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Detailed planning and practice has shaped winter performance, members of Calderdale Council’s Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board heard.

Lessons from the tough winter of 2017-18 were learned to plan for this winter, with preparations beginning last August in terms of planning and recruitment and utilising some additional funding for health and social care partners.

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Chief Operating Officer of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, Helen Barker, said in her report that before the season hit a full deep clean programme took place across all in-patient hospital wards and as a result only isolated infection issues have been seen the winter.

Flu admissions have been significantly lower than last year.

Ms Barker told the board: “Contrast this February as opposed to the conversation we were having this time last year. It’s been a good winter so far.”

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Her report concludes: “Whilst pressures remain, the system has been resilient and has managed these well with no additional hospital beds than plan, discharge performance is amongst the best in the country and no planned operating has been cancelled.”

Although performance against the 95 per cent Emergency Care Standard – a government-set target which says patients should be treated, admitted or transferred within four hours – is below the system trajectory it is still in the top quarter nationally, says the report.

She told members a key component of good performance has been the establishment of a full frailty service, which aimed to to treat frail people in their home where possible by reducing avoidable admissions and re-admissions to hospital.

“They key really is definitely frailty – it is a step change in our service provision,” she said.

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Although there were still some staffing issues, investment had been made with experienced staff recruited to work alongside newer staff, bringing this to bear on issues including assessment and discharge of patients.

She told board chair Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) that in terms of lower numbers of staff sickness it had been the trust’s best.

Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) asked whether using comm unity nurses would continue, and if using them had been beneficial.

Ms Barker said it had and recruitment was planned to enhance the team.

He also voiced areas of concern, particularly pressure on diagnostics and the recruitment and retainment of radiologists, with Ms Barker saying the latter was a regional challenge.

Coun Marilyn Greenwood asked about use of agency staff and was told there were still issues with using them for weekend cover.

The previous week NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Officer Dr Matt Walsh told Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board a huge amount of work had gone into planning and the mild winter had brought some luck, the result being the system in Calderdale remained relatively resilient.

But with the winter months judged until the end of March he did add: “We can never be quite sure until we get outside of April.”