The level of demand we have seen for our services over the last few months has been unprecedented and some the highest we have ever seen at this time of year, and it is likely to get tougher before it gets better.
We are doing everything within our power to see that our patients get the care they need when they need it, in a safe environment. Our hospital remains open and we are here for you if you need us.
But we need your support. The information below sets out the scale of our challenges and to ask for you to take the steps you can to help us and help each other. We are all in this together, your decisions and small actions can really make a difference.
The challenges we face
- Dartford and Gravesham currently have the highest rates of infection in Kent. Those becoming the most sick are those who haven’t been vaccinated – and that includes some pregnant women.
- The hospital is seeing very high demand for services, resulting in long waits in emergency and urgent care departments (A&E).
- Our hospital is often operating at full capacity, meaning that there are no free inpatient beds on our wards.
- Continued challenges to discharge patients home who no longer medically need to be in hospital.
- Some non-urgent operations and procedures have been put on hold.
- Short notice cancellation of operations and procedures, due to staff and/or bed shortages.
- A need to reduce face to face outpatient services where safe to do so, and increase telephone and video appointments for outpatient services.
- Increased workforce challenges owed to increased staff absences due to sickness.
- Increased abuse towards our staff. Please be understanding of our current challenges, we remind you that we have a zero-tolerance policy of abuse towards staff.
To create extra capacity within the hospital we have opened ‘escalation areas’ (inpatient beds placed into areas and departments where beds wouldn’t normally be) to allow us to be able to take additional steps to maintain safe services for all our patients.
We have transformed some of our departments, such as Physiotherapy and main Outpatients, into bedded inpatient wards. Please be assured we have staffed and equipped these areas suitably for the acuity of patients expected to be cared for in these areas. Nonetheless, we recognise that the environments are not of the same standard as our traditional ward areas, and we know that this is not ideal.
We also recognise that the need for staff to cope with increasing patient numbers and to prioritise bedside clinical care for your loved one, may mean they have less time for conversations with relatives. We will always keep you updated on your loved ones condition, and ask for your patience at this time. We will continue to review our visiting, and at present remain able to facilitate 1 named visitor, for 1 pre-booked daily visit of 1 hour. We ask that the nominated visitor communicates with the extended family to reduce the amount of phone calls to the ward areas, allowing staff to concentrate on bedside care.
How you can help
There are some simple steps you can take to help us in tackling these challenges:
- Get your covid and flu vaccinations, including the booster jab if you’re eligible.
- Follow the Covid rules - Think hands, face, space, and let the fresh air in. The latest guidance means you must wear a mask in shops and on public transport (unless exempt). We ask you continue to wear a mask, physically distance and clean your hand when visiting our hospital.
- Consider how you seek help when you need it - contacting NHS 111 or visiting NHS 111 is the best way to find the right service for you if you are not facing a life-threatening emergency.
- If you need a face-to-face consultation with your GP, they will see you, but you could also be signposted to other clinicians or health professionals who can see you quicker and give you the help you need. That could be a Nurse Practitioner or your local pharmacist – these are skilled people who can help you to get well sooner.
- Support a loved one to get home from hospital - spending as little time in hospital as possible is better for patients and means that NHS beds can be freed up for others with urgent care needs. Supporting patients to get home from hospital quickly is an important part of their recovery and it also protects them from things like hospital infections, falls and a loss of independence.
- If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is well enough to go home, but is waiting to be discharged with homecare and community health support, you may be able to help them get home quicker if you and your family can support them at home. If you feel that this is an option that you could consider, please speak to their ward manager or social worker to explore further.