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Craig Black, interim chief executive of Bury St Edmunds' West Suffolk Hospital, says new NHS changes will improve healthcare for everyone

On Friday 1 July, the board of the new Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (SNEE ICS) was launched. This marks a new chapter in NHS organisation which will encourage local health and care partners, such as NHS Trusts, GP teams, local authorities and the voluntary sector to work more closely together to ensure people get the best possible care, in the right place and at the right time.

To mark the occasion, the Can Do Health & Care Expo 2022 was held in Newmarket, where I was pleased to see so many health and care colleagues in attendance.

We have been developing this approach over several years, but the changes will ensure decisions on health and social care are properly joined up, strengthening and building upon ongoing collaboration, improving the quality of decision-making and the services provided, whilst reducing health inequalities.

Craig Black, interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust. Picture: West Suffolk Hospital
Craig Black, interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust. Picture: West Suffolk Hospital

I will represent the Trust on the new SNEE ICS board, giving us a greater voice in how decisions are made regarding health and care in the region. I look forward to progressing this with our health and care partners to ensure happy, healthy and longer lives for our local residents.

Waiting times at the Trust

We profoundly apologise to patients that have experienced extended waiting times before receiving treatment, due in part to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are making every possible effort to treat patients as quickly and safely as possible; prioritising those with the greatest clinical need. I am pleased to report the number of patients waiting 104 weeks or more has dropped significantly from 411 in February to 39 as of 5 July.

We are continuing to collaborate with our NHS healthcare partners and the independent sector to increase capacity and ensure patients receive treatment as quickly as possible. You may have recently seen those waiting 104 weeks or more can elect to be treated at another Trust within the Suffolk and Norfolk East Essex health system. We have treated patients from other Trusts as part of this and some of our patients have taken up the offer to be treated elsewhere. Of the 39 patients mentioned above, 23 have opted to wait to be treated at West Suffolk Hospital, and 16 patients are unable to receive treatment currently due to clinical reasons.

We are also running extended theatre lists and clinics, including at weekends; increased diagnostics to support timely access to scans; and offering digital appointments where appropriate – all to try to treat patients as soon as possible.

Public health update

Many will be aware of the growing number of Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. We are currently seeing a steady rise in patients admitted into our hospital with Covid-19, where we continue to care for them within our dedicated Covid-19 areas. We urge the public to remain vigilant as Covid-19 has not disappeared, and to check our website for the latest guidance before visiting our sites.

Additionally, monkeypox cases continue to rise, with a low number of cases now having been confirmed in the mid-Suffolk region. In line with UK Health Security Agency guidance, we advise anyone who suspects they have come in to contact with, or may have contracted monkeypox, to remain at home and contact your local sexual health clinic or call 111.

74 years of the NHS

On 5 July, the NHS celebrated 74 years of continuous service.

This represents almost three-quarters of a century of providing world-leading healthcare to both West Suffolk, and the nation as a whole.

While the NHS has adapted and changed much since 1948, both the NHS and our Trust look forward to carrying on innovating and improving the standard of care into the future. By doing so, we can continue helping our local communities throughout their lifetimes.