NHS chief says Northumberland 'better prepared than last year' for the coming winter

‘I feel better prepared this year than last’ – that’s the medical director’s view as the NHS trust running Northumberland and North Tyneside’s hospitals gears up for winter.

Sunday, 29th September 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 5:28 pm
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital near Cramlington.

The board of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust received a report on the winter plan for 2019-20 at its latest meeting.

During last winter, due to the lack of major outbreaks or severe weather, the system did not experience the unprecedented pressures of 2017-18, but the learning and experiences from each year feed into the next regardless.

Additional measures in place this year include a night admission ward at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington, plus further ‘escalation’ beds at the Northumbria as well as Wansbeck and North Tyneside hospitals.

Presenting the update, the trust’s executive director of nursing, Marion Dickson, said: “We feel that we are prepared. We want to maintain our patient flow throughout the winter and make sure our care is safe.”

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director, added: “It does feel to me that we are getting better at dealing with the day-to-day business of winter.

“I do feel better prepared this year than last and that’s the right way to be.”

It was noted that the preparations for a busy winter season are against the backdrop of surging demand for services throughout the year, with the trust chairman Alan Richardson saying: “It’s the growth that worries me.”

But Ms Dickson said: “That’s about being agile and forward planning.”

As part of preparing for winter, Northumbria Healthcare has also launched its annual drive to get staff to have flu vaccinations, with all of the board members having their injections ahead of the meeting.

Dr Rushmer explained that there will be ‘very active flu hubs’ at all of the trust’s sites and the programme will also be very reliant on ‘peer vaccinators’.

He added that the target of 100% of staff being vaccinated is being extended this year to additional departments, including all respiratory teams and those involved in emergency admissions.

Dr Rushmer mentioned that it has been a very busy flu season in the southern hemisphere this year, but that it was always difficult to say how that will translate.