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Senior nurses warn winter pressures now 'annualised phenomena'

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“Winter” pressures are now being felt all year round at NHS trusts, deputy directors of nursing have warned.

At the same time the increased demand usually felt during the winter is continuing to rise every year, they said.

“We’ve got to speed up that relationship [between health and social care] if we are to stop what has now become an annualised phenomena”

Alan Sheward

In addition, the emergency care target – which requires a minimum of 95% of patients to be seen, treated, and then admitted or discharged within four-hours – is a “blunt tool” for measuring the performance of acute trusts and the system more widely, it was claimed.

Speaking at Nursing Times’ Deputies Congress in London this week, Isle of Wight Trust executive director of nursing Alan Sheward said: “We use the four-hour emergency care standard as a barometer and a bit of a blunt tool really for assessing not just how acute trusts are performing, but how the whole system performs.”

He noted this “front end” of the system was being measured “more easily than the back end”.

To tackle escalating pressures, he said trusts should be developing relationships with other professions across the health and social care sectors.

“We’ve got to speed up that relationship much, much quicker if we are to stop what has now become an annualised phenomena. It’s certainly not a winter pressure as we knew it,” said Mr Sheward.

Department of Health

Senior nurses warn winter pressures now felt all year

Source: Andy Paraskos

Alan Sheward at NT Deputies 2016

Deputy directors of nursing in the audience at the event in London agreed pressures were being felt across all seasons.

Some said they had coped better during this year’s winter by, for example, improving their plans for the redeployment of staff or working with social care providers to discharge medically-fit patients before going home.

However, one deputy director or nursing said that, while his trust “proactively” opened early escalation beds before demand increased, this meant that later on in the winter the resources had run out and performance deteriorated.

“What went wrong was our performance up until December was pretty good, but once we hit January and had no more resources to open any more escalation capacity, then the whole system between January and to this week has really been very poor,” he said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • For those who may get the wrong idea from the above misuse of the word "phenomena" (see the above quote from Mr Sheward), please note that the singular is "phenomenon," while the word "phenomena" is the plural. Just in case any foreign nurses may be asked about it in the English test.

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