Political Viewpoint: by James Miller of Southend’s Confelicity Party.
I LIKE to review all the Council meetings that take place, which can be found at www.southend-confelicityparty.co.uk/newsandopinion, and provide a layman’s view of what goes on.
Many times policies are passed and Southend is left wondering how that came to be. The Southend Confelicity Party’s task, therefore, is to look at what is going on and reflect back on only one question: ‘Is this good for Southend?’
I recently reviewed the People Scrutiny Committee, which took place on June 6, and the main topic was a general report from Andrew Pike, Managing Director of Southend Hospital/Chief Operating Officer of the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, reviewing the winter just gone, operational improvements and presenting targets for the future.
This was the first time I had seen him and whilst I believe he believes what he says and comes across committed to getting things right, my review of his review is quite possibly a little undeserved.
The pressure to run three hospitals must be immense and I would not envy his task.
Lives are at stake with every stroke of his pen and I believe entirely that he is doing everything he can to ensure Southend and the wider population are as safe as is financially viable.
However, I can only judge upon what I see, where there were gaps or unanswered questions, or realities that contradict theories, I could not help, but give them half a spot light.
The facts, figures and targets he ran through, did not seem to translate into people’s experiences of the hospital’s performance. Without undermining Mr Pike, as it was his job to report on performance, there was an air of humble self-satisfaction with the difference he made as he described the changes in January shifting beds from ward to ward, opening up spaces (17) that weren’t previously there, expanding nursing numbers, and improvements in ambulance handover times whereby there is now a ‘race’ for Southend to beat Chelmsford.
He could only work with what he was given and he seemed to have done well with the limited resources available.
He then went through a set of targets, which, as a Director myself, maybe one of the easiest, but most useless managerial tasks I can think of. I do them myself out of some kind of managerial auto-pilot, but they rarely work out.
— He plans to expand capacity in A&E and reduce waiting times to meet the national standard of 76% (from 65%) of people waiting 4 hours to 3. —
Ambulance handover times are currently 28 minutes and he wants them to be 15 minutes.
At 45 minutes there is even a ‘drop n go’ policy to make sure there is a space somehow. He announced ‘zero tolerance’ in the event of a 12-hour wait (for which there are around 6 or 7 per day currently).
According to his figures, 350 patients came into A&E, which on average, amounts to 100 ambulances a day in Southend. So, one of the key areas to work on was patients being discharged after they have been deemed ready to leave. This time he plumped for a number no more than 150 across the Trust. And lastly, he is looking to open 60 extra beds over the coming winter across Basildon, Chelmsford and Southend.
For me, a target of 4 hours is still an admission of failure, not by the MD, but by the people in charge of the NHS.
Worse, still, a Councillor spoke of an elderly lady who had to wait 10 hours to be seen in A&E. In his own words, 6 to 7 people per day were waiting over 12 hours.
In terms of the ‘zero tolerance of 12 hours’, it is stunning that a board room of people could possibly agree to such a target. What exactly is the punishment for the doctors and nurses if this were to occur? Do we want any punishment for them? What more could they have done? What is the punishment for the MD himself if he doesn’t meet the target? You can see how meaningless this is.
A story from another Councillor was that the discharge time for her father was at least two days longer than it needed to be and was ‘chaotic’.
His answer: “With the systems we put in place that shouldn’t have occurred.” Either he is on the ground-floor every day, but somehow misses these operational anomalies or he is rarely there and relies on others telling him what’s going on. There is no win either way.
Opening up 60 beds across the three hospitals amounts to 20 beds for Southend, which is nowhere near what we need. Every extra hour we wait at Southend Hospital is the measure of the urgency in which our health is valued by those in power.
Admittedly, I am being wholly ignorant, because I have absolutely no idea how he carries out his job, under which instruction, and if he is reading this, I hope he can understand I, and Southend, come simply from a place that wants our family and friends to be well.
There is a wider conversation about capacity, demand, population growth, prevention, government investment, and the underlying real ambition of those that are in charge that is out of his hands.
But, what his targets show are examples of the ambition that is hiding in plain sight. Every extra hour we wait is the measure of the urgency in which our health is valued by those in power.
What we need is 150,000 letters from Southend residents sent to our MPs and the Health Secretary to make this the issue of the day.
If we, as Southend residents, are not prepared to do anything about it then why should those who set the targets be any different?