Clinical Lead, Emergency Medicine at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Asish Chatterjee talks about his passion for Furness General Hospital and the opportunities to develop and integrate its facilities as part of the New Hospitals Programme.
Geography is a challenge for many parts of Lancashire and South Cumbria, but nowhere more so than for Furness General Hospital. It’s situated in Barrow-in-Furness, at the tip of a peninsula, well over an hour by blue light ambulance to the next nearest major hospital.
This location means we have developed a culture of self-reliance and a reputation as a friendly hospital with a personal touch, which is appreciated by our patients. Many of our staff stay with us for a long time, but we also have significant issues in recruiting new members of staff, linked to our geographical isolation.
The hospital is also on the doorstep of the Lake District National Park and the Emergency Department is used by an increasing number of visitors from across the country who need our assistance.
While a significant number of services are provided on site, we work closely with colleagues from neighbouring hospitals which have specialist services such as major trauma, neurosurgery and vascular surgery. Every minute counts when seriously ill patients need to be prepared for transfer by helicopter or road.
Improving links with other hospitals in the region is key, and one important aspect in making this happen is technology. Better digital communications will enable Furness General Hospital to make better use of resources, optimise the use of clinical time and improve patient safety. For example, allowing us to share images with specialists at other sites at the click of a button, would mean access to a wide range of expertise that is not available here in Furness.
The New Hospitals Programme offers us the chance to bring the latest technology to Furness – not just imaging and telemedicine, but artificial intelligence and robotics, which could be part of our future too. We need to think about the needs of the next generation of patients and make everything about our hospital digital, fast and future-proof, as well as giving staff in Furness access to the latest education and training tools.
We’ve seen first-hand how investing in the local NHS estate can improve our patients’ experience and attract the best quality staff to our area. For example, the new South Lakes Birth Centre has led to an increase in the satisfaction of service users who recognise the quality of our facilities.
Similarly, the brand new GP centre recently opened in Barrow, bringing together four practices, has been warmly welcomed in an area where local people can sometimes feel they live in a forgotten part of the country.
The New Hospitals Programme provides a big opportunity for the team at Furness to explore how investment can significantly improve the quality of the hospital estate as a whole, rather than just piecemeal improvements.
In my area of Emergency Medicine, for example, I can see great benefits from looking in detail not just at what services we have and the equipment we need to provide them, but also more fundamental things like the layout of our buildings and what services can be co-located.
This is an opportunity to ensure our hospital site works in the best possible way in terms of minimising staff and patient time moving from location to location, as well as making services more seamless, efficient and attractive for all who use them. Furness will always be a smaller hospital, but we have a great opportunity to access funds to invest in and develop its future, to ensure it meets the needs of our local community for generations.
It is also important for staff and the wider community here in Furness to recognise that the New Hospitals Programme covers the whole Lancashire and South Cumbria region. We will also benefit significantly from the investment being made available to transform services in Lancaster and Preston. We need to play our part in developing and supporting the regional plans and working ever more closely with colleagues at other hospitals and in primary and social care.
Author: Asish Chatterjee, Clinical Lead, Emergency Medicine at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.
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