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I’m not sure we could have had two more different bank holiday weekends! One with blazing sunshine a few weeks ago, and one full of wind and even hailstorms last weekend (how British of me, to be talking about the weather).

I’ve enjoyed getting out and about in the Suffolk countryside over the last few weeks, whether running, cycling or playing tennis. I was actually out running when said hailstones hit and I ran backwards for 300m because it was so fierce! Anyway, I do try to practice what the NHS preaches about keeping active, but it’s certainly made a lot easier when you have such beautiful scenery to enjoy it in.

Whatever you got up to, I hope you all managed to enjoy the May bank holidays and the variety of weather they brought with them (hailstorms in May, who’d have thought it?). I came into the hospital over the weekends to check in with staff and see how they were doing, because for us at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, it has been an exceptionally busy few months. Busy in fact, beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

You might have seen the article in last week’s Bury Free Press following one of our Board meetings, where I was reported as talking about ‘exceptional’ demand and our challenge of not having enough nurses.

We do actually have more nurses working with us than we ever have before, but the amount of people needing and accessing NHS services has outstripped our and the rest of the NHS’s predictions. Normally after winter things ‘reset’ somewhat, but in March more patients came to our emergency department than in any month across winter, and April was equally as busy. In real terms, this is hundreds of extra patients a month than we’re used to seeing. We’ve put on lots of additional staff in order to help, but the circumstances have still been difficult and my colleagues have coped admirably.

The NHS will always be here to help, but this does all put extra pressure on our service and on our staff. We’ve not been resting on our laurels, and have already welcomed a whole raft of new nurses to the West Suffolk fold over the last six months, but as leaders we absolutely acknowledge that we need keep doing our bit and recruit more.

But we also need you to help us by, please, using NHS services wisely. Coming to a busy A&E department might not be the best, or quickest, way to get help, and should really be for life-threatening illnesses or emergencies (we also prioritise patients in terms of clinical need, so if it’s not an emergency you might be waiting a longer time than you or we would like at the moment). If you’re not sure, use NHS 111 as your go-to; they have nurses and other clinically trained staff on the end of a phone to help you then and there. They don’t just give advice, but can signpost you where you need to go and can even book appointments with GPs and other help centres for you.

And actually just as important is helping us to get people home. If you have a loved one in hospital with us, please help us to get them home when they’re fit and ready to so that we can use that bed for a usually very sick patient who needs it (unfortunately we don’t have an unlimited number of beds). Recuperation at home is much better, more comfortable and actually happens more quickly than if you stay in hospital.

We are one of the few outstanding rated trusts in the country but we know we aren't perfect, and we want to make sure that despite this demand we’re still getting things right by you, our patients and our community. If you would like to share feedback (good or bad) with us, please get in touch with our patient advice and liaison service at pals@wsh.nhs.uk or on 01284 712555.

Until next month.

Steve

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Chief executive, Steve Dunn

Chief executive, Steve Dunn