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‘Change has to happen now’ say hospital chief executives

12 July 2016

Health Care

The two hospital chief executives at the heart of transforming healthcare services across mid and south Essex have set out their vision of the future to local consultants, GPs and junior doctors.

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon, Orsett and Broomfield hospitals and Sue Hardy, chief executive of Southend Hospital, told members of the South Essex British Medical Association there was an impetus for change that has never been seen before in the NHS.

Sue said: "Change has to happen now. The NHS has never been under the pressure it is currently in terms of its finances and workforce. There has never been the impetus there is now to make things change."

Clare added: "We know that we are really struggling with a system which is overwhelmed with demand and we have not got our services in such a way that we can look forward to the future and be reassured they will be of a high quality.

"The capacity for change has always been drowned out by the pressures of coping with demand, meeting waiting list targets and keeping the show on the road, which has meant we have not been able to address the fundamental issues."

The Mid and South Essex Success Regime is responsible for driving forward this change for more than one million patients in the region. The aim is for much better collaboration between hospitals, GPs, and community and social care providers to ensure patients access services in the right place at the right time - and increasingly outside hospitals.

If the NHS in mid and south Essex continues to deliver services in the same way, it is estimated that there will be a financial deficit of more than £200m by 2017/18.

The three hospitals are currently duplicating services and struggling to fill doctor and nursing vacancies, which puts huge pressure on existing staff. For example, 12 out of 28 A&E consultant posts across the hospitals are unfilled.

Medical and nursing directors from the three hospital trusts have been meeting regularly to identify the best way to deliver care to patients in A&E, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and acute medicine as a starting point. A key focus has been on the provision of emergency care - all three hospitals are seeing more attendances to A&E than ever before.

Discussions have focussed on the development of a specialist emergency centre for mid and south Essex. This is supported by widespread clinical evidence that shows getting seriously ill or injured people to the right specialists can greatly improve their chances of survival.

Those sites without the specialist emergency centre would develop as centres of excellence for planned operations, tests, procedures and outpatient clinics. They would still have 24-hour services to treat people with less serious illnesses but these patients would be seen more quickly.

Speaking at the Basildon Hospital education centre, Clare and Sue added that any service redesign would be based on evidence that demonstrated improved outcomes for patients.

They stressed that the challenges could not be met by hospitals working in isolation and that there had to be a shift away from the culture that going to hospital was the solution to most health problems.

Clare said: "A huge part of this is about how we can work with our commissioners and community partners to design more resilient, effective local care which focusses on prevention and looking after patients outside hospital."

The success regime will soon be in a position to consider several potential models for future service configuration and there will be a period of consultation later in the year.