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All I want for Christmas…

If you ask people what they want for Christmas most of them won’t say: “a new emergency department”, but I’ll be honest, that is what I, and many of my colleagues, local councillors and MPs, have had near the top of our wish-list for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for some years now.

We must have been particularly good this year, some may say ‘outstanding’ (well, the Care Quality Commission did!) as we have finally been granted our wish. I’ve been wanting to develop our emergency department for as long as I have been a chief executive here at West Suffolk Hospital. I love our hospital, but it was built in a time when our society and population were very different, and the health needs of our community not as complex and long-standing as many we experience nowadays.

Our emergency department is the same size as when the hospital opened in 1974 – our town was much smaller then, and we didn’t have the ageing population which we do now. I really appreciate the support of Matthew Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and MP for West Suffolk, who has been a vocal supporter of our Trust receiving additional funding to overhaul our emergency department.

However, a special thank you has to go to Jo Churchill, local MP, who has tirelessly and quietly argued behind the scenes for a new emergency department for West Suffolk Hospital for years. I want to thank her specifically for being our advocate and helping to make this happen. We are lucky to have great local MPs who really care about, and support, our local hospital.

Of course, this funding isn’t going to solve all the challenges we face, but it will help. It will make a big difference to our hardworking teams and I hope our patients will notice even better and more efficient care too. If you’d like to help us in this busy winter period, please make sure you get your flu jab if you’re in a high risk group and choose what NHS services you use wisely. If you start to feel unwell consider visiting your pharmacist before it gets more serious. If you feel unwell over the holiday period when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 to get the right medical attention urgently. Also, if you do sadly find you have a loved one in hospital over winter, please support us by helping them get home when appropriate.

Don’t get me wrong, we have already been making great strides as an acute hospital to revolutionise the way we treat our emergency patients. Our new acute assessment unit (AAU) is now open and taking patients, and supports emergency patients that need observation, diagnosis and treatment, but who don’t need major emergency department care. Those patients who do need ongoing care in hospital can then be transferred to the right, specialist ward for their needs first time, but wherever possible we monitor and treat patients on the same day so they can return home with the help they need, like take-home medications.

It’s pretty innovative and it’s already helping us improve our emergency care and deliver for our patients’ needs.

Even our communities hearts aren’t what they used to be in 1974 - on average 442 patients are referred to us each month, with referral increasing at an ever-increasing rate. It was Charles Dickens that wrote: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Now I’d like to think I’m much more friendly and generous than Scrooge (my colleagues may disagree), but the hearts of our community will be looked after even closer in our community all year round in our wonderful new cardiac centre which has been doing really well since opening.

The heart of our hospital, though, is our staff. And that heart needs caring for too. Many of our staff have to work long shifts over the festive period, and are caring for other people’s loved ones when often they could be at home relaxing with loved ones of their own. So, I really want to take this opportunity to say thank you to them. Please spare a thought for all our emergency services personnel across our region, and the country, which selflessly spend their time caring for others all year round, not just at Christmas. 

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Chief executive, Steve Dunn

Chief executive, Steve Dunn