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Craig Black, interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospitals Trust, with his monthly update

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Last month, colleagues from our community teams moved into the new Brandon Leisure and Health Hub. The hub aims is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and includes upgraded fitness facilities hosted by Abbeycroft Leisure alongside clinic space our community healthcare professionals such as district nurses and physiotherapists can use to see and treat patients.

This kind of community model is a forward-thinking way of building community resilience. Being co-located in an already established leisure centre means healthcare services are provided alongside other wellbeing services, and closer to home, saving patients the task of travelling to the West Suffolk or even Addenbrooke’s hospitals. Importantly it brings huge benefits for patients in their recovery.

The move to the Brandon Hub comes after community health staff relocated to the Mildenhall Hub, which opened around six months ago.

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

This has enabled colleagues to work closely with a range of public services such as social care staff, and supports our desire to provide more joined-up care across the public sector so that you don’t need to have the same conversation multiple times.

As the trust, like most up and down the country, cautiously moves into a period of recovery, we are working hard to restore services affected by the pandemic. Our waiting lists grew longer as we had to pause services to focus our efforts on Covid-19. We know this is frustrating for patients and appreciate the impact this has had. We’re prioritising patients based on clinical need and doing all we can to ensure we see people as quickly as possible.

For example, we are working with colleagues at East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust to ensure equity of access to additional capacity, including the sharing of waiting lists between the two organisations. We are also working with independent providers to increase capacity where possible.

Our ability to work through our waiting lists more quickly is also impacted by essential repair work required to our hospital building. Therefore, we are running at reduced capacity. This is why planning for our new hospital in Bury St Edmunds is so important. Throughout November and into December, our ‘future systems’ team is holding a second period of pre-application engagement for our preferred site on Hardwick Manor. The trust is aiming to submit an outline planning application early in 2022.

As part of this, the team has been running engagement events up and down the county as well as online. They have provided an opportunity for Suffolk residents to give feedback on our plans and to ask any questions. Securing outline planning permission is a significant milestone on our journey to building a new hospital and we are excited that our local community is helping us shape the eventual outcome.

Please look out for future opportunities in the new year to have your say. I know the team really enjoyed meeting and hearing the opinions of local people.

This hospital is for the residents of west Suffolk so it’s important you join us in creating a new healthcare facility.

I want to end this article, my last one of 2021, by wishing you all a merry Christmas and to ask you to stay safe this winter. The colder weather can bring issues for many people, especially those with long-term health conditions, so it’s more important than ever to look after yourself and your loved-ones.

One of the best ways to do so is to get your Covid-19 vaccine or booster. This virus is still hugely prevalent in our country and people are still sadly dying from it. Please book a jab as soon as possible. This is very easily done through the NHS website with locations across Suffolk and in Bury.

In addition, please arrange a flu vaccination with your local GP or pharmacy. As a trust, we see every year how dreadful flu can be to an individual so booking a jab with your local provider will go a long way in maintaining your health.

And finally, remember we are always here for you. We do not close during the festive period – our emergency department doors are still open, community nurses still go out to people’s homes and provide vital care even on Christmas Day. But if you’re not sure if coming to us is needed, please use your local pharmacy who are highly trained in giving advice and medicine but also by calling NHS 111 who can signpost you in the right direction.

Despite how difficult this year has been, I want to thank every one of you who has shown our colleagues support and care over the last 12 months. From myself and everyone at your local NHS trust, I wish you a very happy Christmas.

-- Craig Black is interim chief executive of West Suffolk Hospitals Trust