The Chair welcomed David Loughton CBE, Chief Executive, The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, to the meeting and invited him to present his report.
David Loughton briefly outlined the health services delivered across 20 settings across Wolverhampton, Cannock and the surrounding area by The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust. David Loughton commented on the tertiary services delivered to an estimated population of 1.9 million people covering a large geographical area. He commented that health services are under great pressure due high demand but highlighted the important contribution of social services provision in supporting the discharge of patients and easing this pressure. David Loughton gave a recent example where the hospital had to deal with 20 ambulances arriving at the hospital when major beds were all occupied. Comment was made that the current challenges facing hospitals were not just relating to previous six months but as a result of national political decisions not to invest sufficient funds in social services.
The findings of CQC were highlighted which reported the hospital had achieved 85% A& E target – the performance target is 95% - which will be difficult to achieve. David Loughton reported that the hospital is doing well in terms of patient safety and tertiary services and that it is receives high levels of customer satisfaction. However, the hospital is experiencing difficulties getting the 200 extra nurses recruited from the Philippines to meet the required language standards so that they can work. The hospital is however still able to attract high calibre consultants. The challenge for the hospital is that it needs nursing staff with 5-6 years’ experience now, but the necessary work to train and recruit the workforce should have been done 12 years ago to replace staff leaving the health service.
David Loughton commented that the transfer of services from Mid Staffordshire Hospital in November 2014 had worked better than expected. However, there was concern about need highlighted in a report by Sir Bruce Keogh about the national shortage of consultants and the conclusion that there were too many A&E centres. A key recommendation in the report was that the number A&E centres should be reduced and concentrated into larger centres to achieve better patient outcomes and improve patient safety.
He commented that a full A&E service is not needed as 80 per cent of patients, who currently access the hospital, are dealt with within the four hour target, and are able to be discharged without the need to be admitted. David Loughton commented that people are happy to wait in an A&E to be seen within four hours rather than wait 72 hours to see their own GP.
£35 million had been spent on improving services at Cannock Hospital which had benefited patients living in Stafford and Wolverhampton areas, for example, reduced waiting times for diagnostic treatments. David Loughton added that the rheumatology service at the hospital has a national reputation for quality.
Reference was made to proposals in the Sustainability Transformation Plans (STPs) about the future of Stafford Hospital and a commitment offered to maintain the existing provision. David Loughton commented on the important contribution of minor injuries provision at Cannock Hospital to the overall performance of the services offered by RWHT.
Thomas Sheeran, Rheumatology Consultant, briefed the committee on recent developments at the hospital and the appointment of four new consultants since the merger. Thomas Sheeran commented that the hospital was still able to attract high quality candidates. A recent peer review in December 2016 had been very positive about the quality of the service provided and inspectors who visited took away ideas about how it could be implemented elsewhere.
David Loughton commented on the shortage of trained consultants who can undertake robotic surgery, particularly for treatment of urological conditions. David Loughton commented that as a result of this issue the waiting list for patients is growing, which is proving a challenge for the hospital. The number of cancelled operations is reducing, but is still a concern.