I would like to start off my column this week with an apology to all our patients, their loved ones and our community after the Channel 4 Dispatches programme highlighted the challenging conditions in our urgent and emergency services at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

As a nurse and having previously worked in an Emergency Department, it was upsetting to see the conditions some of our patients are facing in our hospitals and how incredibly hard our colleagues are having to work to maintain safe services and support the privacy and dignity of patients.

I know that our communities may be worried following the programme and I wanted to offer reassurance, as a nurse, that our top priority is your safety and we have strict criteria in place that means no-one with a critical condition should wait in a corridor or escalation area.

Ultimately, we want to stop using these escalation areas and ensure no-one is waiting long times on a chair or a trolley. However, like many hospitals across the country we are seeing a lot more demand for hospital beds, with more people having complex conditions and more frailty.

Our Emergency Departments were not designed to meet this level of demand, which is why we may ask patients with lower medical needs to sometimes wait in our escalation areas until a bed becomes available.

Urgent and emergency care is an issue for everyone at our Trust and also other health and care services. Working with partners, we are doing everything possible to support patients who are medically ready to leave hospital to be discharged, so we can release a bed for someone who is in our emergency departments. Long-term we have plans in place to transform the way we deliver care to help us meet this demand.

In the meantime, our focus has been on ensuring safe care in these extreme times, however we know we need to do more to improve the experience for our patients. We know we are not delivering the quality of care that we strive to deliver for our patients, and we are already working to make improvements across the hospitals and in our community care.

I regularly visit various departments and listen to the concerns, compliments and ideas from our patients and colleagues. We have already made many improvements thanks to your feedback, but recognise there is more we can do.

We have increased our staffing, especially within our nursing teams. There are areas we can immediately improve, including refreshing our training on infection prevention and control and manual handling, we are also recruiting more housekeepers to make sure our departments are clean and that our patients are regularly offered food and water and we are prioritising patient observations.

I also want to give you my assurance that we are prioritising the privacy and dignity of patients and we are ensuring portable screens are in place.

Listening to your feedback, I also know we can improve our communication when you are waiting in our hospitals. We will keep you regularly updated on your condition as we want no one to feel forgotten.

These improvements, however, do not take away the fact that there is still much more to do. We will fully explore all the feedback and incorporate the learning into our improvement work and we are committed to working with and listening to feedback from our patients, communities, partners and colleagues.

As a nurse, I know the pressures and challenges my colleagues face and I am grateful for everything they are doing to support our patients in this difficult working environment. I would also like to thank our patients, their loved ones and our communities for your understanding and the kindness shown to our colleagues. As a Trust we are committed to improving urgent and emergency care for everyone and I will keep you informed of our progress over the coming weeks.

If you are worried about anything you have seen in the programme, or have questions or concerns about the treatment you, or a family member, have received please contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) who will do their best to support you. For details on how to contact our PALS team, please visit www.sath.nhs.uk/patients-visitors/comments-concerns-complaints/

People can also contact their local Healthwatch or Llais who are independent organisations that champion the voice of people using health and care services locally.

We have also put plans in place for further strike action by junior doctors which started yesterday and runs until 7am on Tuesday 2 July.

We, along with other healthcare organisations, will be working hard to deliver the best possible care possible during this time.
Please continue to attend appointments as planned unless you are contacted to reschedule.
If you have a life-threatening emergency, our emergency departments remain open 24 hours a day, so please continue to come forward as normal.
You can also visit NHS 111 online or call 111 if you need urgent medical help or consider visiting your local Minor Injury Unit in Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Oswestry and Whitchurch. These can provide rapid treatment for injuries and illnesses that don’t require emergency hospital care. By choosing the right service for your needs, it really does help our hospitals to prioritise those patients who urgently need our support. Thank you for your support.