Hospital has 'robust plan' to deal with problems posed by winter
By Olivier Vergnault Overgnault@Heraldexpress.co.uk
TORBAY Hospital has prepared a 'robust winter plan' to deal better with an influx of patients during winter.
Paul Mears, chief operating officer with South Devon Healthcare Trust, told a board meeting this week that the hospital had been stretched last winter because of prolonged difficult weather conditions.
He said: "It has been challenging in terms of the tough weather conditions which led to a rising number of injuries.
"We also had to prepare for the swine flu epidemic and we had many more norovirus cases to deal with.
"It had a bigger impact on the accident and emergency department and the four-hour standard, and had an adverse impact on the ambulance turnaround performance."
As part of the plans, a better bed management policy has been put in place, while senior physicians will be on site at all times to ensure that patients can be appropriately treated, admitted and discharged.
Mr Mears said electronic whiteboards had been installed throughout the hospital to give nurses and doctors access to every bed and improve discharge efficiency.
In his report to the board he said: "This year for the first time we are holding a winter planning seminar for all matrons from the acute trust together with matrons from community hospitals and key community staff."
However, he warned that despite the measures taken to make sure that Torbay Hospital coped well during the winter months, social care budgets could go up, causing a challenge to the transfer of patients to community beds.
The hospital also needed to be ready for staffing problems when nurses and doctors were sick.
Mr Mears' report added: "The risk of norovirus remains high. We are working with our infection control teams to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to ensure that our policies for managing infection are effective."
Meanwhile, people across South Devon are being encouraged to protect themselves from flu this winter by having a vaccination.
This year's annual seasonal flu vaccination campaign has now been launched by the Department of Health.
This year, for the first time, all pregnant women will be offered the seasonal flu vaccination.
It will protect them against the H1N1 virus (swine flu) that will still be circulating this winter, and pregnant women who catch this strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions.
Everyone aged 65 and over is routinely offered the jab, as are younger people with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and serious kidney and liver disease.
Around 15 million people in the UK have the jab, which must be administered every year, as it is altered to match the flu strains which are in circulation.