The people of north and mid Hampshire are being asked to have their say on the way emergency care is delivered across the area as part of the Hampshire Together programme.
That means looking at all aspects of urgent care being used today – whether people call 999 or 111, contact their GP surgery, reach out to a mental health team, or head to an emergency department – and finding better ways to join these services up, giving patients the most convenient and high-quality support possible.
The Hampshire Together: Modernising our Hospitals and Health Services programme involves NHS and social care providers across Alton, Andover, Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Winchester and the surrounding areas. It is being led by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
The programme includes the construction of a brand new hospital – but its impact will reach far beyond the walls of this new building, involving GPs, mental health, community care, social care and the wider voluntary sector, as well as acute hospital care.
As part of the Hampshire Together programme, people across north and mid Hampshire are currently being asked for their views on the way health services are provided in the area now and in the future.
This week, the focus is on emergency care – not just emergency departments, but also ambulance services, NHS 111, and community-based support.
Both Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester, have full emergency departments, where doctors and nurses work to establish why people are ill and begin their treatment. Specialist nurses also care for people who have sustained minor injuries, a service that is also normally provided at Andover War Memorial Hospital.
This current system provides a number of challenges, solutions to which will need to be found as part of the Hampshire Together programme.
Dr Jay Chitnis, clinical director for urgent and emergency care at Hampshire Hospitals, said: “We have a brilliant team of doctors and nurses, who provide really good care for people who arrive at our hospitals either sick or injured.
“However, it is no secret that in recent years we have found it difficult to prevent more patients than we would like spending more than four hours in our emergency departments. A&E departments never work in a vacuum – they are part of a network of urgent care services, and everything is connected. If any one part of that network is struggling – whether it is in A&E, the ambulance service, 111, or primary care – then the whole network struggles. That is why we need to consider this issue across the whole local system.
“We have worked to make improvements to Trust services, and are proud of the progress that we have made, but our ability to continue to improve is restricted at the current time.
“Running more than one emergency department brings extra costs and challenges. This was evident recently when, during the COVID-19 crisis, we had to take the difficult decision to temporarily close the minor injuries unit at Andover because the specialist nurses working there were needed in our other hospitals.
“We also have limited space. For example, we would like to offer improved facilities for people with additional mental health needs, but there is simply nowhere to do this in our current locations.
“And crucially, we also need to revisit how all of the local services knit together. Most people want services to be joined up, and we recognise the importance of doing that.
“We really want to hear from people who have used our services recently to learn about their experiences and listen to what they would like us to be able to do differently.”
Dr Nicola Decker, clinical chair for north Hampshire at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups, added: “Getting emergency care right is essential to all of us.
“People with an urgent health concern often don’t know where to turn or how to navigate the different options. We are committed to working together to build a system which makes it easier and simpler for people to make good choices. We want to ensure that people get the best outcomes possible at a time which is usually very frightening for them and their loved ones.
“That means building a network of services working together to give people the help they need – both face-to-face and virtually. It means bringing the ambulance service, GP surgeries, mental health teams, the 111 service, and hospital staff together so that the most seriously ill people get high quality, life-saving emergency care, while others are put in touch with skilled staff who can support them in convenient settings, away from A&E.
“We need to build a system which gives local people better urgent care, and which makes life better for frontline staff who are often working under intense pressure. That is a difficult task, but it is so important. I really hope people can take some time to get involved and give us feedback which can help influence our thinking.”
Isobel Wroe, director of partnerships and strategic development at South Central Ambulance Service, said: “As a modern ambulance service, we deliver our services through a combined and integrated approach with our wider health colleagues, as well as responding to emergency 999 and urgent GP calls.
“The expansion of our non-emergency NHS 111 and patient transport service means that SCAS now provides an integrated urgent care model to clinical assessment, sign-posting and advice.”
You can hear more about the challenges facing emergency care, and how these could be overcome, as well as having your say, during a special online engagement event taking place at 11am on Saturday 4 July. If you would like to take part you can register by visiting www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/109798030866.
Another chance to have your say will take place at 8pm on Thursday (July 2) night, when the focus will be on the Basingstoke area in general and Basingstoke hospital in particular. If you would like to take part in this event, you can register by visiting www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/109824696624.
More information about Hampshire Together, including details of all upcoming events, and an online comment form can be found at www.hampshiretogether.nhs.uk. You can also find Hampshire Together on Twitter (www.twitter.com/HampshireMOHHS) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/hampshiretogether).
If you would like to receive the listening document and a comment form by post, write to the programme at FREEPOST Hampshire Together (no stamp required) with your name and address.