SEVERAL measures have been put in place to avoid the bed crisis that led to many operations being cancelled at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital over the last two years.
A new winter plan has been implemented by the RD&E with the aim of avoiding problems of previous years over a lack of bed space. In a report last year chief executive Angela Pedder revealed that nearly 50 patients who "do not need to be there" were effectively bed-blocking, with nowhere else to go for their on-ward care.
The lack of beds, combined with a "significant increase" in the number of emergency admissions over the winter, caused many elected admissions to be cancelled.
This year, despite a month long outbreak of norovirus that only subsided this week, there has been a 93 per cent reduction in the number of appointments at the RD&E being cancelled.
Director of nursing and patient care Em Wilkinson Brice said the hospital has been working closely with the wider health and social care community to implement a winter plan. This includes additional GP provision; a focus on increased care packages for patients with complex needs; additional resources for onward care teams to support patients on leaving hospital; additional acute physician time in the medical triage unit at the RD&E; and investment to enhance psychiatric liaison and assessment services.
The RD&E has also invested in additional capacity with the opening of two new wards in early December. Board approval for the £6 million project was granted in May last year. Ashburn has 28 beds for older people and Yealm has 20 short-stay rehabilitation beds.
"Three months into the winter period, the new capacity is proving to be key in ensuring the smooth flow of patients through the hospital," she added. "As ever our staff have been fantastic in going the extra mile in maintaining efficient, effective and high quality care.
"One indicator for the benefits of the winter plan is the significant fall in the number of cancellations for planned appointments at the hospital.
"This has dropped by 93 per cent compared to the same time last year. This is despite the recent norovirus outbreak."
This week the hospital also launched its dedicated surgery unit. The facility on Knapp Ward follows a huge redesign project to create a ward for all surgical admissions, both in-patient and day-case.
Knapp ward matron, Wendy Strode, said "We now have 30 patient spaces allowing us to manage 50 in-patient admissions and a further 20 day cases daily."
The hospital has also made changes to a number of clinical pathways to ensure all emergency services are as resilient as possible.
"NHS Devon is partnering us by investing in additional GP provision and extra medical resource for triage at the RD&E," said a hospital spokesman. "There are also weekly, multi-agency meetings to give early warning of operational pressures across the area, and to agree plans to resolve them."