A TEAM of Government “intensive support” experts has been drafted in to try to improve the flagging performance of Southend Hospital.

Members of the NHS National Intensive Support Team have been brought in to find ways to tackle problems including overcrowding in the A&E department.

The move comes as the department continues to be inundated with patients, leading to the cancellation of nonurgent operations.

For the past three months, the hospital has failed to meet its target of seeing 95 per cent of all A&E patients within four hours – with chief executive Jacqueline Totterdell warning there is no quick fix.

She said: “Achieving the national A&E target has become increasingly challenging through the winter, with an extra 400 patients alone in both December and January.

“Last week, we were seeing about an extra 60 or 70 patients each day.

Echo: New hospital chief  Jacqueline Totterdell

Help needed: Jacqueline Totterdell

“Although staff have been working extremely hard, we recognised we needed some external help to assure us we were doing all we could.

“The intensive support team will help identify areas where there is scope to make procedures more efficient throughout the emergency care department, based on best practice from other acute trusts.”

The team has already said the department needs a major expansion to allow for increased numbers of patients. It has also suggested other changes to the way patients are assessed.

Mrs Totterdell, who was last week named by the Health Service Journal as one of the UK’s top 50 NHS executives, claims some of the problems stem from the former management team, led by John Gilham. She recently told the trust board there had been a “struggle in changing the culture left as a legacy from the former management”.

The hospital’s poor performance and failure to meet targets has resulted in it being “fined” £969,000 by the clinical commissioning group.
Over the past three months, the hospital has been:
*Missing targets for the first treatment of cancer patients within 62 days over past three
*Not managing to give breast cancer sufferers treatment within the 14-day target
*Not referring all patients for treatment within 14 weeks, with the waits getting longer
*Logging a growing number of official complaints from patients – 172 in January and
*Running short-staffed, with 8.8 per cent of posts at the hospital vacant in February.
This has contributed to problems, particularly in A&E

Echo: Southend Hospital

Southend Hospital

However, A&E staff at Southend were praised by national NHS officials for the way patients
are discharged from the department. 
Members of the NHS Intensive Support team advising at Southend were so impressed with the discharge system they have flagged it up as “best practice” which other hospitals would do well to copy.
GPs who run Southend Clinical Commissioning Group have also been looking at the department’s operations.
As a result, a GP is now based in A&E to look at patients and send those not needing emergency care elsewhere.
Ms Totterdell said: “They recognised we were receiving a number of patients in A&E didn’t actually require hospital care.
“The group could see we were extremely busy and was concerned about patients not
being able to be taken out of ambulances as quickly as we would have liked.”