SPECIAL measures and concentrated efforts were taken last month to reduce the pressure on the trust’s emergency departments ahead of the annual winter upsurge in admissions.

As of Tuesday, 17 October, the percentage of patients being seen within four hours of arrival in the trust’s emergency departments stood at 82.7 per cent - compared to the 95 per cent national target - with bed occupancy in the departments running at 93.1 per cent.

Further, in September, the number of times the trust breached the four-hour target for patients to be seen from arrival in emergency departments stood at 1,220 - its highest rate since January.

To enhance these figures, improve the flow of patients through the system at all three hospitals and get the trust’s emergency departments at Basingstoke Hospital and Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester, ready for winter, the trust ran a campaign called Autumn Action from October 18-20.

The plan took on the same structure as the trust responding to a major incident with command structures and involved the trust, South Central Ambulance Service, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, GP federations, Hampshire County Council, Clinical Commissioning Groups and the voluntary sector working together on improving patients flow through all three hospitals to improve patient experience and reduce waiting times in emergency departments.

Part of this involved focusing on discharging patients, when appropriate to do so, to free up beds.

The three days of action led to the percentage of patients being seen within four hours of arrival in emergency departments rising to 97.57 per cent on Friday, 20 October - well above the 95 per cent national target - while bed occupancy in emergency departments fell to 84 per cent by the end of Autumn Action with 80 beds freed up.

At the meeting, Julie Maskery, the trust’s chief operating officer, said: “It was a brilliant three days. It was a one-off to create the capacity, however, there was a huge amount of learning and things that we can do to continue our improvement.

“The engagement from all staff that I spoke to was really nice to see. They were all doing their absolute best.

“Our thinking is we will run this initiative again in the new year.”

Plans are also in place for preparing for the usual upward spike in emergency admissions during the winter months.

This includes opening the Overton unit of 28 beds to boost capacity as an intermediate care facility and the continued phasing in of a transformation programme to have certain patients discharged and then assessed at home which is supported by Southern Health.