What Chief Executive Sloman Says - April 2006

Spring has finally sprung as we move into a new financial year.  Although it is too early to be clear where we ended up, I am confident that our hard work during the year in ensuring excellent performance against all of the NHS plan targets and our financial vigilance will stand us in good stead as the final accounts and star ratings are prepared.  In particular, well done to all staff in ensuring that we achieved the demanding 98 per cent target for emergency care. This is thanks to staff in all parts of the hospital working together extremely effectively.


Some of the other highlights of the year that just ended include reducing waiting times so that no patients wait beyond the national targets for surgery and outpatients with the vast majority waiting less than 3 months for surgery and 8 weeks for outpatients, the targets being 6 months and 13 weeks respectively.  We have speeded up the treatment and care of cancer patients and have dramatically increased the proportion of patients we treat surgically in a day.


As we move forward, one of the major ways that we can improve both patient care and the efficiency of the hospital is though the intelligent use of information management and technology. 


Since the beginning of March all our inpatient discharge summaries have been completed electronically rather than by hand. One of the main  - and well-founded - complaints about the previous handwritten summaries was that they were often completely illegible.  This meant that GPs were unable to tell what had happened to their patients during their hospital stay and that our pharmacy often had great difficulty making out the discharge prescriptions.


Now that these documents are produced electronically the quality of the communication and the continuity of care within and between the hospital and the family doctor will be improved.   Equally the take home prescriptions can be filled more efficiently and the risk of prescribing errors reduced.  Collectively this enables the patient to go home earlier as they are not hanging around waiting for their medicines to arrive, which also helps us to reduce our length of stay, which is important to the financial well-being of the hospital.  The next step will be for us to send the electronic discharge summary directly to the GPs in the same way that we are now able to send our x-ray reports, again improving communication and the continuity of care.


Implementing the new systems has meant changes in the way we work, ensuring that the discharge summaries are ready early in the morning so that the pharmacists can fill the prescriptions in good time.  However, I am both pleased and impressed by the way that all staff have responded to this new initiative and implementation has gone very smoothly.


After a slow start, the national Choose and Book scheme is now starting to pick up.  This is the system that enables GPs and patients to book first appointments directly into our outpatient clinics over a secure network in a similar way to how you can now book train or aeroplane tickets online.  The aim is to give patients more choice over the time and date of their appointment.  It also has the facility for GPs to ask for advice and guidance on the management of patients without the need for the patient to attend hospital.  Since the beginning of April we have made it possible for each of our services to receive Choose and Book electronic referrals.   Again this will mean changes in working practices, with referrals being looked at on-line and triaged within five days of receipt, and once again all staff are responding well to the new system.  In a few years time we will not remember how we managed without it!


The year ahead promises two more major IT projects going live in the hospital.   Firstly we will be implementing a new computer system in the operating theatre department.   This will help us to manage the department more efficiently, for example by helping us to schedule our operating theatre time.   It will also give us better information on how we are managing patents thought their procedures before, during, and after surgery.


Finally I am optimistic that this year we will finally move forward with replacing our pathology system.  The current system has served us well but is on its last legs.  We need a new system both to stabilise and modernise our services, for example, to GPs through enabling electronic ordering of tests.
Working on it!