Big freeze blue­print

Lessons learned and plans drawn up in wake of Beast from the East

East Kilbride News - - FRONT PAGE - Nicola Find­lay

Hos­pi­tals across Scot­land strug­gled last win­ter with Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal Hairmyres in East Kil­bride par­tic­u­larly af­fected due to the cold snap and in­creased de­mand. But how are health chiefs pre­par­ing for the next icy blast? Nicola Find­lay was given an in­sight into their... Hos­pi­tal boss Joanne Ed­wards to­day un­veils the big freeze blue­print de­signed to avoid the chaos which en­gulfed Hairmyres last win­ter.

The direc­tor of hos­pi­tal ser­vices at Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal Hairmyres told the News they are braced for in­creased de­mand and if there is an­other Beast from the East episode.

But the pub­lic has been urged not to at­tend A&E de­part­ments un­less it is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. Plans for Hairmyres in­clude: Ex­tra medics re­cruited for win­ter wards at Hairmyres along with Christ­mas and New Year ro­tas in place.

A num­ber of GP surg­eries will open in Jan­uary across La­nark­shire.

Plans in place for trans­port hub at Hairmyres in event of se­vere weather.

Med­i­cal as­sess­ment unit up and run­ning to help ease back­log in wards and pres­sure in A&E.

NHS La­nark­shire med­i­cal direc­tor Dr Iain Wal­lace apol­o­gised to pa­tients when the big freeze and heavy snow saw wait­ing times rocket with A&E wards burst­ing at the seams and non­emer­gency op­er­a­tions can­celled.

Hairmyres was par­tic­u­larly badly af­fected.

But Ms Ed­wards be­lieves the East Kil­bride hos­pi­tal is as pre­pared as it can be for this win­ter, with ex­tra staffing and ro­tas in place for the hos­pi­tal’s win­ter wards and ar­range­ments for a trans­port hub should the weather cause havoc.

“Work­ing though the Beast from the East was some­thing I don’t think any of us had ever ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore,” she said. “It was one of the most chal­leng­ing pe­ri­ods I have ever had in all my time here.

“But the ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment of all our staff was sec­ond to none and I have to say the team I have here at Hairmyres is ex­cel­lent.

“How­ever, we held a win­ter de­brief with the team and we knew in April and May what the lessons were from that pe­riod and agreed what we needed to do go­ing for­ward.

“One of the main dif­fer­ences is that we have re­cruited ear­lier, we have our nurse staffing and med­i­cal staffing all ready for the win­ter wards, which will in­crease bed ca­pac­ity at the hos­pi­tal by 17. That can open at any point in time.

“We try and not open it un­til the first week in Jan­uary where we see his­tor­i­cally a peak in de­mand.

“How­ever, hav­ing all these staff in place who have gone through their in­duc­tion means they are ready to mo­bilise as quickly as pos­si­ble.

“We have opened up our med­i­cal as­sess­ment unit which used to be on the wards and all Christ­mas and New Year ro­tas are sorted and we are acutely aware of who is work­ing when, at what point in time, what the teams that are on for ev­ery day over that pe­riod and

Work­ing through Beast from the East was one of the most chal­leng­ing pe­ri­ods I have ever had...

what ad­di­tion­al­ity we are get­ting from our spe­cial­ist nurses and from our con­sul­tants.

“We do have con­sul­tants that will be work­ing later into the evening to sup­port the peaks in de­mand.”

With last win­ter’s white­out bring­ing La­nark­shire to a grind­ing halt, staff were left stranded, of­ten re­ly­ing on mem­bers of pub­lic and vol­un­teers with four-wheel drives to get them to work.

But there are plans to keep staff mov­ing dur­ing a big freeze.

“I have al­ready set up our own trans­porta­tion hub here,” Ms Ed­wards said. “We did that on the back of try­ing to sup­port staff to try and get in and out of work last year,” she con­tin­ued.

“We now have got a co­hort of vol­un­teers that we know have fourby-four ve­hi­cles or four-wheel drives.

“Last year it was done on the ba­sis that we had to re­act to it but this year we have a list of vol­un­teers and how they can sup­port us and will use ex­ter­nal vol­un­teers along with life­savers and Red Cross sup­port­ers who re­ally were our life­savers last year.

“This year we have done a bit more work in­ter­nally be­cause no one ex­pected that level of snow dis­rup­tion – al­though here in East Kil­bride we are prob­a­bly more used to snow than else­where.”

In re­sponse to last year’s win­ter chaos, NHS La­nark­shire opened its GP surg­eries on Satur­days and this scheme will be re­peated.

Ms Ed­wards added: “We know when they are open­ing up and how many are open­ing up so as a con­se­quence we will then be able to sup­port pa­tients in a dif­fer­ent way if they are able to go through their GP at the week­end.”

There are talks on­go­ing to in­crease the open­ing hours of the mi­nor in­juries unit and al­though there are cur­rently no va­can­cies within nurs­ing staff, Ms Ed­wards ad­mits re­cruit­ing physi­cians at Hairmyres re­mains an is­sue with cur­rently not enough doc­tors to al­low this. Ca­pac­ity is­sues re­main chal­leng­ing.

“We run at about 93 per cent oc­cu­pancy,” she added.

“If you were build­ing a new hos­pi­tal, you would build one with 85 per cent oc­cu­pancy.

“We are over-oc­cu­pancy and that is usu­ally med­i­cal care of the el­derly but we have an ar­range­ment where we utilise sur­gi­cal beds where we pos­si­bly can do to sup­port the ac­tiv­ity in this area.”

But the over­rid­ing mes­sage from the health board is clear – don’t at­tend A&E un­less it is an emer­gency.

Ms Ed­wards said: “Hos­pi­tal isn’t al­ways the most ap­pro­pri­ate place for pa­tients and we are con­tin­u­ally work­ing to get the mes­sage out there that they can ac­cess ser­vices in the com­mu­nity as a first port of call, such as phar­ma­cists, den­tists, op­ti­cians and GPs as well as NHS 24.”

Un­der pres­sure Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal Hairmyres saw ma­jor dis­rup­tion dur­ing last win­ter’s big freeze 191118hairmyres_07


Beast from the East Hairmyres strug­gled with in­creased de­mand and staff un­able to get to work af­ter icy blast in Feb­ru­ary Think­ing ahead Hairmyres boss Joanne Ed­wards and se­nior nurse Kirsty McMil­lan have been busy get­ting ready for win­ter with a team of lead clin­i­cians

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