It may be summer, but east Kent’s hospitals are already preparing for the winter when they expect to see heavy demand for services.
The hospitals trust is recruiting staff and speeding up access to scans to improve waiting times for planned and emergency treatment.
Its aim is to alleviate pressure on services created by the increased healthcare needs at colder times of the year.
The moves come as senior NHS leaders call on hospitals to act now to be prepared.
NHS England reports that there is an improving picture for emergency department waits in east Kent’s emergency departments and minor injury units.
More than above 80% of patients wait under four hours to be seen, treated, admitted to a hospital bed or discharged.
The Trust last reached 80% in March 2017 and is eight months into its A&E recovery plan, launched in September 2017.
Chief executive Susan Acott said: “The figures are good news for east Kent patients, but we need to continue to improve and prepare for high demand on our services this winter.
“Winter traditionally means more very ill patients needing emergency hospital services and last winter the NHS as a whole struggled to meet the demand.
“Winter also means many planned surgeries cannot take place, which this year had a significant impact on our waiting times for planned surgery such as hip and knee replacements.
“We need to improve these waiting times and so we are taking steps to create more room and have more staff within the hospitals to care for both emergency patients and patients who need planned surgery.”
The trust has developed a multi-pronged approach to reducing waits.
Measures include a GP working alongside the emergency departments, recruiting nurses and consultants from abroad, physically improving the emergency departments and a “number of projects aimed at improving different elements of the patient journey through ED, the wards and back home or to a community setting”.
Ms Acott added: “We know from the safety and quality data that we collect, and from patient feedback, that most of our patients have a good experience of our services.
“We have a 97% patient satisfaction rate, but many patients are simply waiting too long for some services.
“Our priority for the year ahead is to cut the length of time these patients need to wait for their treatment. By taking these steps, we hope to achieve that.”