A hospital trust in the south of England may hire a mobile morgue and use local funeral directors’ facilities as part of its preparations for winter.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust is also likely to move much elective work away from one of its sites for almost two months, to help it cope with emergency attendances and admissions.
The trust’s plans for winter resilience include increasing mortuary capacity by 100 “to cope with potential increase in demand”. It confirmed this could involve “bringing mobile facilities onsite and working with partners such as funeral directors to use their facilities”.
Papers for a board meeting this week suggest the trust is planning to keep open only one theatre for electives at its main site, the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, with others being used for emergency work during winter. The elective theatre will be prioritised for cancer cases and patients who are coming up to a 52 week wait. The orthopaedic unit at the hospital would be used for non-elective patients.
It describes these options as “plan B” adding that “this will mean very little elective activity” will take place at Tunbridge Wells. Although the board papers also describe a “plan A” they also say “it is now very clear that plan B will be the winter plan in operation this year”.
The trust is assessing whether it is feasible to move either gynaecology or ENT elective work – or both - to its Maidstone Hospital from 23 December to 19 February, and possibly until 31 March, according to its board papers. Maidstone Hospital may also take some additional orthopaedic work which would normally be done at Tunbridge Wells.
The loss of elective theatre sessions at Tunbridge Wells could lead to an increase in patients on the waiting list to around 500, with a 2 to 3 per centage point drop in performance against the referral to retreatment target. Moving some surgery to Maidstone could reduce this.
It is also asking doctors to submit leave requests now for Christmas and New Year, reducing outpatient clients in the run up to Christmas to allow doctors to carry out extra ward rounds to aid discharge, looking to move patients who are medically fit to discharge into community beds, and opening more critical care beds – if it can get the right staff in place. CT scans for routine patients would be outsourced.
MTW medical director Peter Maskell said: “Our winter plan provides a number of options for managing our clinical services safely and effectively for our patients over the winter period.”