With so much in the news about the pressures on acute hospitals, ambulance crews and GP surgeries, BBC Points West reporter Steve Knibbs wanted to find out first-hand what life is like in our community hospitals, and how they’re helping to alleviate some of the strain on our county’s acute services.
So this Wednesday (18 January) he paid a visit to Cirencester Hospital, where he spent time observing a typical day on the wards and in the MIIU.
His first point of call was the Minor Injury and Illness Unit, where he spoke to Manager Debbie Simmonds about how MIIUs, such as the one at Cirencester Hospital, are helping to relieve the pressure on the county’s A&E departments.
The MIIUs are nurse and paramedic-led practitioner services who see and treat minor injuries and minor illness through walk-in appointments and those booked through the telephone triage system.
They typically treat patients with minor injuries such as sprains, simple fractures needing X-Rays, simple wounds, minor burns, minor head injuries and minor illnesses such as earache, sore throat and chest infections.
Debbie talked about how our MIIUs are having to adapt to the changing demands on the services they offer, and how they have seen a rise in patients with more serious conditions, such as chest pain, attending MIIU instead of the busy emergency departments.
“We have to take risks which we wouldn’t have taken a few years ago,” she said.
“All chest pains would go by ambulance, but now we’re having to make the decision, ‘Can we get this patient in a car, and in 20 minutes they’ll be in ED? Or do they sit in the department for the next three or four hours?'”
Steve then spoke to the Trust’s Chief Operating Officer David Noyes about how, when needed, extra beds are being brought into our community hospitals to take pressure off the acute hospitals, and how our community teams and Home First – our intermediate care team – are helping to get people home and living as independently as possible.
On Coln Ward Steve met Senior Sister Karen Fawcett and her colleagues, where he got a real taste of a typical day on the ward.
Karen, who has worked in the NHS for 36 years, is really passionate about what she and her team do every day for their patients.
“All we hear in the media is about the pressures, the things that aren’t working, how ambulances don’t get to patients, how we can’t discharge people home,” she said.
“What we all forget is for all of those we have a lot more ‘thank yous’ and ‘well dones’. We do really, really good work in these hospitals.”
Having witnessed a typically busy day on the wards and in MIIU at Cirencester Hospital, Steve summed up his broadcast saying: “They’re busy here, as everywhere else is, and doing their bit to take the pressure off a system that’s feeling it more than ever.”