A Yorkshire trust has released some of its administrative and HR staff from their normal day jobs to act as “runners” on wards, so nurses and healthcare professionals can concentrate on patient care.
In addition, operations and clinics have been cancelled so specialist nurses can work closely with accident and emergency staff to try and reduce unnecessary admissions.
“My entire workforce is putting its collective shoulder to the wheel”
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said the move, put into operation today, was intended to help it deal with unprecedented winter pressures at its two acute sites since the start of 2018.
It said it had struggled not only with an increasing number of patients turning up at accident and emergency but also with the complexity and seriousness of their conditions.
Launching what it has dubbed “operation wintergreen”, the trust said it had seen record numbers of emergency admissions with serious and life-threatening illnesses over the past few weeks.
As a result, routine surgery and some outpatient clinics will be cancelled for eight days from 29 January, to free up clinical teams in specialisms including cardiology, rheumatology and respiratory illnesses.
Nurses and consultants will then be redeployed to work alongside frontline teams in Hull Royal Infirmary’s emergency department to reduce unnecessary admissions and ensure patients had access to specialist opinions without having to be admitted onto wards.
“We will be able to prioritise the care of our emergency patients”
In addition, some of the trust’s 8,000-plus office, administrative and HR staff, are also being released from their normal day jobs to volunteer their services by acting as “runners” on wards in the Hull Royal, so nurses and healthcare professionals can concentrate on patient care.
Staff volunteering as “runners” on wards will be co-ordinated by a specialist team, ensuring they can be deployed to areas most in need of support, according to the trust.
Additional pharmacy staff, porters, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and phlebotomists will also be drafted onto wards to enable patients to be discharged home sooner than normal, it said.
Hospital staff have begun contacting those patients whose non-urgent operations and routine outpatient appointments between 29 January and 8am on 6 February will be cancelled.
However, patients with long-term conditions who would be adversely affected by cancellations or postponed treatment, cancer surgery and urgent appointments will not be affected.
The trust said it hoped the plan would lower bed occupancy at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital, which is currently above 95% and well beyond the 85% recommended for optimum safety.
Trust chief executive Chris Long said: “We have so far managed to avoid cancelling all non-urgent surgery in the way that many other trusts across the country have been doing since NHS England issued guidance in December.
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“The time has now come, however, for us to take more extensive action and we owe it to our patients and staff to ensure we are there for the people who need us most,” said Mr Long.
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“My entire workforce is putting its collective shoulder to the wheel to ensure we make it through the winter and that our patients receive the best and safest care we can deliver,” he said.
Michelle Kemp, director of operations for the trust’s family and women’s health group, admitted that she did not know exactly how many operations or appointments would be cancelled.
“We will only cancel appointments and operations where staff are to be diverted to productive roles alongside our emergency teams and we are working closely with our outpatients teams to ensure cancellations are kept to a minimum,” she said.
“By releasing our clinical teams from their other duties for a short period of time, we will be able to prioritise the care of our emergency patients, the people who need us most,” said Ms Kemp.
Chief operating officer Ellen Ryabov added: “By taking this action now, we hope to be in a far better position within 10 days to cope with any potential impact of flu or a continuation of the recent increase in patient acuity that we have seen in recent weeks.”