East Cheshire NHS Trust has won a prestigious award thanks to its innovative approach to managing seasonal pressures.
The trust, which is based in Macclesfield, scooped the ‘Changing Culture’ category in the Health Service Journal’s Patient Safety Awards 2018.
East Cheshire was given the award for its strategy to manage challenging conditions over winter by deploying non-clinical staff as ‘runners’ around Macclesfield Hospital, helping serve food and drinks at patient mealtimes, assisting with discharges and escorting patients between departments, among other tasks.
The policy draws on staff members from corporate departments such as Finance, HR and Communications and frees up doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants to concentrate on clinical care. The runners also help to sustain patient flow around the hospital by ensuring any issues preventing a patient from being discharged or transferred are addressed, for example by collecting medicines from Pharmacy.
The trust’s award submission also included its PALS Outreach Scheme, which sees staff from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service proactively go out to Macclesfield Hospital’s wards and departments to check patients are satisfied with their care and immediately address any concerns or queries they may have. Doing this has led ward-based complaints to fall by nearly a third year-on-year.
Trust Chief Executive John Wilbraham said: “We are delighted to receive this important award, which comes soon after our Care Quality Commission inspection rated our services as ‘Good’.
“We along with most other NHS trusts faced a very challenging winter last year, with high patient demand and many very poorly elderly patients placing a strain on our services and bed availability.
“However, we were able to mitigate this by training and deploying non-clinical staff who were able to spare some time away from their normal duties. We also saw additional benefits to the initiative including face-to-face relationship-building between clinical and non-clinical staff, and suggestions for improvements thanks to the runners acting as a fresh pair of eyes in clinical areas.
“I am proud of all the staff who have made this initiative such a success and helped achieve the award.”
Executive personal assistant Gareth Rydings is one of the staff members who serves as a runner. Gareth said: “Performing the runner’s role has been a very worthwhile experience. It’s great to be able to help alleviate the pressures the trust can face and being hands-on in the wards and departments it reminds you exactly why we are all here – to care for our patients.”
Commenting on the PALS Outreach Scheme, Mel Pearson, a senior sister on Macclesfield Hospital’s Ward 1, said: “The PALS outreach programme really is excellent. It ensures that any minor issues get dispersed quickly before they escalate.”
Commending East Cheshire on the initiative, judges from the Health Service Journal said it had helped to ‘bridge the gap’ between clinical and non-clinical staff.
The runners system now continues throughout the year, with a rota permanently in place and staff deployed if the hospital’s OPEL level (which is determined by factors including bed availability and patient numbers in A&E) reaches a certain stage.
**Photo shows executive PA Gareth Rydings, senior sister Melanie Pearson and trust chief executive John Wilbraham with the award