Bid to tackle big rise in demand for Norfolk's health services

Dan GrimmerHealth bosses from across the county will meet next week to discuss ways of tackling rising and unprecedented demand for emergency services.Dan Grimmer

Health bosses from across the county will meet next week to discuss ways of tackling rising and unprecedented demand for emergency services.

Despite the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital opening an additional 54 beds and introducing other service improvements, there has been a steep rise in emergency admissions and attendances.

There has been a fall in the number of people bed blocking - those who are fit enough to go home but there are no places for them to go in the community - this year, but the changes have not been enough to absorb demand.

The Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee will next week discuss plans to alleviate demand with current measures explained to the group by bosses from NHS Norfolk and the N&N.

There has been a 16pc rise in medical emergency admissions and an 11pc rise in A&E attendances this year at the N&N.

It has led to problems including, on several occasions last year, beds running out and staff being forced to care for patients in treatment rooms, and a high number of elective operations cancelled.

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An N&N spokesman said: 'There has been heavy demand for our emergency services recently and we are working closely with NHS Norfolk to look at ways of reducing that demand on hospital services.

'We also want to encourage people to 'choose well' and make the best use of the most appropriate NHS services.

There has been a similar rise in demand for emergency services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, but not to the same extent.

Next week the committee will hear from Dr Bryan Heap, medical director and chairman of the unplanned care programme board at NHS Norfolk, who will explain the measures they are taking to address the current situation.

These include managing minor attendances, carrying out a seven-day audit of emergency admissions and a review of current out of hours provision.

One of the methods being tested is to ask patients with minor ailments, who go to the A&E department, to go to see their doctor or pharmacist instead. This bid to reduce waiting lists is currently being piloted at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The Choose Well campaign has also been established to ensure people attend the right health service for their treatment and not go to A&E unnecessarily.

An NHS Norfolk spokesman said: 'Minor attendances drain patient flow issues and add unnecessary pressure on the four hour waiting target.

'As a result, NHS Norfolk has been working with emergency departments and GPs to design a system addressing the issue of patients who attend A&E departments who to not require immediate attention.'

The Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is made up of 15 county and district councillors from across Norfolk. It acts as a watchdog to safeguard and promote the interests of people in the county who use health services.

Thursday's meeting will take place at 10am in the Edwards Room at County Hall in Norwich. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

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