Hundreds of new beds needed at ‘absolutely overflowing’ hospital
PUBLISHED: 05:30 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 21:47 07 February 2019
The region’s busiest hospital is “absolutely overflowing” and will need an extra 200 beds in the next four years, its outgoing boss has said.
Mark Davies, chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) announced last week he planned to step down in the autumn.
But in an exclusive interview with this newspaper he set out how he saw the hospital progressing and gave his view on the future of his hospital, and the health service in general.
Mr Davies, who has been working in the NHS for 40 years and at NNUH for four years, said: “When I remember the health service in 1980, the first MRI scanners had just been invented. In 1980 it was the first keyhole surgery. I’ve lived through 14 health service reorganisations in that time. It’s been a long and wonderful career. I’ve got no regrets.”
But he said there were things that had to change in the service if patients were to be looked after properly.
He said: “I want to say things to help spur on a debate about how we might improve things for the people of Norfolk. I say all this in that spirit.”
He took aim at capacity, a lack of cash, and how hospitals worked together as areas which needed to be looked at, pointing to the recent £500,000 spent on Boston Consulting Group to see how Norfolk’s health system performs.
He said: “Boston Consulting Group have said a number of key things, amongst them they say if we do nothing this county will need 500 beds extra by 2022/23.
“Clearly we have to do something. They said primary care is badly stretched and that the recruiting GPs is getting increasingly hard.”
He said this caused a situation where hospitals were full, patients could not get GP appointments, and social services were also stretched.
“At the N&N we are full, all day every day. And I’ve been saying since I’ve been here that the hospital is too small and I can say now we’ve burst out of the hospital, we’ve got portable cabins on site, we’ve got scanners on lorries.
“So we’ve got to do something and waiting lists are growing, we’re running to a standstill and we’re having to run faster and faster. I can’t ask the staff to do any more.
“They are incredible, understanding, but we need to help them, because just asking them to run faster is just not going to work.
“First we need more capacity, so we need more capital from the government to build more beds. Here in the county and here on this site. And for this site we’re thinking 200 beds and more diagnostic capacity. It’s really busy, we’re absolutely overflowing. We’re seeing 10pc more A&E attendances and 15pc more ambulances. And still our staff are coping brilliantly.”
He said this would mean more staff - which he admitted was a national problem. But applications for more cash had been turned down and he said: “Norfolk has not had its fair share of capital money. We’re diagnosing people with suspected cancer, trauma, people coming through A&E, we need CT and MRI more and more.
Mr Davies also said while hospitals had worked closer together, there was much more to be done - and it needed to be done quickly.
He said: “I think we are working very well, particularly with the James Paget, but I think my rallying call is we need to do more and we need to increase the pace and scale of working more closely together. And I believe leaders need to have vision and courage to do the things that are right and I do worry that if we don’t collectively, across the county, increase the scale of our ambition we could be accused of letting patients down.”
And he also urged organisations to be recognised for the role they play. He said: “We have a role in the county as a very large, regional, university teaching hospital, so we’ve clearly got to provide the most specialist care. We’re often the only place left as a place of safety, we never close our doors, ever.
“It’s [going to be] more of the robotic surgery - we would like to go from one to three robots. But we’re not going to have a robot in every Norfolk hospital.”
Mr Davies said his biggest challenge had been balancing quality and safety with the trust’s multi-million pound deficit. But that he was still lobbying the government to step in and help with the £20m-a-year PFI costs which left the hospital hamstrung.
He said: “We’re talking about a potential £20m plus dividend.”
He added his dream would have been to take the trust to an outstanding rating. He said: “What’s utopia? An outstanding trust with a balanced budget, that’s the dream of any chief executive. I’ve felt very privileged to be the chief executive here.”
But he said he was most proud of bringing the trust’s mortality rate down by 10pc during his tenure.
He said: “I think that’s all down to the fact we’ve got more staff and more nursing staff. We’ve got 10pc more nurses, about 200, 10pc more consultant medical staff, which is 60, and over all 9.2pc more staff, that’s 760 more staff here on the ground now and that’s bound to have an impact on patient care.”
And the second part was technology, not only in treatment but the trust was launching new digital patient records. Mr Davies said: “Everywhere you go you see people wheeling big trolleys of notes around and we’ve got a massive warehouse in the town which is something like six miles of notes ,and we’re investing into digitising all those notes. From now on they will be computerised.”
And he said close links with the Norwich Research Park, University of East Anglia, and the Quadram Institute, had helped the hospital progress.
Mr Davies, who will still live in Norfolk but has not confirmed whether his next role will be in the NHS, added: “This is my local hospital and I want to see it be the best it possibly can be.”