Yesterday evening I attended a meeting of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust Council of Governors. I am a Partner Governor of the Trust as part of my role as Lead Member for Health on Reading Borough Council and since I became Lead Member last May I have worked hard to build up a good relationships with our local NHS hospital to ensure Reading residents get the best possible care and services.
We are very lucky in Reading to have an excellent local hospital on our doorstep. However, the Trust serves a large population beyond our area so it is important the views of Reading patients are represented and officers held to account for the services they provide - hence the important role Trust governors, particularly Public Governors (who are elected) play.
Like local councils the Trust has some substantial savings to make over the coming years. Senior Trust staff acknowledge that the £20 billion pounds efficiency savings the NHS has been asked to make by Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS (started under the previous Labour Government and continued by the Coalition) is going to be one of the Trust's biggest challenges - even bigger than the proposed NHS reforms they reckon.
One of the ways the Trust will be saving money is by investing in an Electronic Patient Record system which is set to save over £29 million pounds over seven years. This innovation should also benefit patients by reducing problems caused by lost paperwork and missed appointments. Work is also ongoing to save money in the back office by sharing services with other NHS bodies.
Despite the savings the Trust has to make I was reassured to hear that senior officers and staff at the Trust are still totally focussed on improving patient care. The number of formal complaints by patients relating to care they had received at the Trust has fallen substantially compared to last year and patient satisfaction is very high - with over 90% of patients saying they would recommend the Trust to their family or friends.
There were a number of interesting issues on the agenda at the meeting across a range of subjects relating to the performance of the Trust.
I was particularly interested to hear how the Trust coped with the recent flu outbreak.The Chief Executive reported that there had been a significant increase in flu-related illness during the Christmas and New Year period across the local NHS.
There was a big spike in the number of emergency admissions between 28 December and 12 January.
This put local health and social care services under immense pressure - and life was made more difficult due to the poor weather and the fact it was during the holiday period.
The number of GP admissions to the Trust was 27 % higher than the same period in 2010. As a result the Trust increased the number of beds in line with its agreed Winter Escalation Plan. We heard that this was implemented successfully and the number of beds opened was 20 beds less than last year.
The Chief Executive of the Trust, Ed Donald publicly acknowledged in the meeting that Reading Borough Council social care staff had played an absolutely critical role during this difficult period helping NHS staff at the Trust free up beds for those that needed them by helping manage discharges and care in the hospital and out in community. For any elderly or vulnerable residents admitted to hospital with flu at this time this must have been a very stressful experience. Having social workers on hand must have made a real difference to them and their families. I was aware of the work staff did from conversations I had with RBC staff a few weeks ago but it was fantastic to hear a local partner thank Council staff publicly in this way. taff in our social care teams are a credit to the Council and to the people of Reading.
I was also pleased to hear in the meeting Ed Donald mention the recent highly critical Care Quality Commission report about stroke care for patients in our area. This report said that inpatient care was excellent but that rehabilitation services in our area are lacking.
I was pleased to secure reassurances from Ed that the Trust would work with the Council and the PCT to improve stroke care services in the community. This follows the letter I have written to the Berkshire West Primary Care Trust calling on them to make urgent improvements to stroke care services.
Lots of other interesting and important issues were discussed at the meeting including recruiting more members of the Trust. Membership is open to all members of the public with an interest in the running of the Trust. If you would like to find out more about the workings of our local NHS Foundation Trust Hospital why not become a member? It is free to join and you find out more details here.