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No winter crisis for the hospital, says director

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THERE will be no winter-illness crisis in Jersey’s hospital this year, according to the man in charge.

Rob Sainsbury, Managing Director of the Hospital

General Hospital group director Rob Sainsbury said that, while many UK hospitals had already been on ‘code red’ alerts and had had to cancel planned operations, he did not foresee a similar situation in the Island this year.

Last winter, from January to March, 20 operations were cancelled at the General Hospital because of bed shortages, and in recent years there have been ward closures because of winter vomiting outbreaks.

Hospitals categorise how well they are operating by using a colour-coded grading system. A ‘code green’ signifies when the hospital is functioning normally and moves to ‘code amber’ if a number of services and functions are under pressure.

Higher-level alerts are categorised ‘code red’, a signal that pressures are interrupting services, often resulting in operations being cancelled.

In extreme circumstances, a ‘black alert’ can be declared if the hospital is so overwhelmed that it can not function normally and may be unable to give life-saving care to all patients. Codes red and black are announced when a hospital is at ‘crisis point’.

Jersey’s hospital has been experiencing a ‘code green’ since December 2018, Mr Sainsbury confirmed.

He said that a system for managing the flow of patients meant the Hospital was better prepared.

Mr Sainsbury explained that this was largely due to fewer patients being admitted to the hospital and the fact that Jersey was better able to discharge patients back into the community, compared to the UK.

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The Island’s voluntary services and charities play a major role in managing the ‘patient flow’, he added.

‘There isn’t the same amount of voluntary support in the UK and, as the landscape is larger and more complex, the interface between the NHS and the community is not as strong.’

He said: ‘The whole system works really well. If you compare us to the UK, the winter pressures there really start by the end of October. By the time we get to December most of the hospitals have to start planning to cancel all their planned surgery for January. Some have to cancel all of it from January to March. They need to keep all their capacity for the sheer volume of activity coming in.

‘It’s is not like that here. The way the system works together, there’s a good escalation process and patient-flow management.’

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Mr Sainsbury said part of the reason for Jersey not facing the same bed shortages and long waits as those experienced in many NHS hospitals was due to the way different areas worked together.

‘The Ambulance Service and paramedics work very similarly in the UK and Jersey but what’s really struck me is the personal relationships between people here, which means everyone knows one another better and that helps.’

Managing the treatment of Islanders with winter illnesses is continuing as the hospital managers work on a new healthcare structure, called the target operating model, which is due to be implemented by next spring.

Mr Sainsbury added that the ethos behind it was why he was confident the hospital would cope with peak winter demand.

Krystle Higgins

By Krystle Higgins
Reporter

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