An annual check-up to assess how well Stockton and Hartlepool’s health bodies are performing has unveiled a mixed bag.
The AGM of Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (HAST CCG) heard how North Tees was “one of the best in the country” when it came to A&E waiting times for its performance earlier this year.
But it revealed there was room for improvement when it came to meeting new ambulance response times and reducing cases of Clostridium-Difficile (c-diff) – a common bacterial infection causing diarrhoea, fever and nausea.
Leaders of the health group gave the updates at Billingham Forum alongside the release of the annual HAST CCG report.
Here’s what we learned.
URGENT CARE – GOOD
A new 24/7 urgent care service was introduced to North Tees and Hartlepool hospitals last year.
Figures from the CCG report showed 98% of patients turning up at the new integrated urgent care centres had been treated within two hours.
And the report added this had a knock on effect in improving access to A&E.
CCG governing body member Lisa Tempest added: “Very often people turned up to A&E which is not the best place for them.
“We listened to feedback and looked at national best practice and we introduced a brand new integrated care service with three services going into one with two centres at North Tees and one at Hartlepool.
“It’s fair to say it’s been extremely well received by the public and patients and the service has won a regional award in excellence in emergency care.”
MRSA - GOOD
Health trusts take a “zero tolerance” approach to MRSA – an infection which is difficult to treat and the scourge of hospitals.
And that figure of nil was achieved in the CCG area with no cases reported in the past year.
Lisa Tempest, from the CCG, said this was down from two cases the CCG area had in the previous year.
Jean Golightly, executive nurse at the CCG, added: “That’s how hard we work.”
A&E WAITING TIMES – VERY GOOD
Four hour targets are set down for health trusts to see and treat everyone who comes into A&E.
Statistics from the report show 97.1% of patients were treated within that window in 2017/18 and attendees of the AGM were told how the University Hospital of North Tees had performed “exceptionally well” at just above 98%.
Ms Tempest added: “I think they were one the best performers in the whole country in February which is one of the busiest times of the year.”
CANCER DIAGNOSIS – MIXED
The report revealed 31-day targets for cancer diagnosis had been “consistently met” with overall 62-day treatment targets up in the last few months to 92% versus a target of 85% in December 2017.
Statistics in the report show 95.5% of those diagnosed with cancer awaiting surgery waited less than 31 days for an operation – this is a 1.1% fall on the previous year.
In 2017/18 – 96.6% of patients with cancer needing radiotherapy waited less than 31 days – which was down 1.8% from the year before.
Despite the falls, both the performances are deemed to be “above standard”.
But treatment for cancer after referral from a GP was below standard for the fourth year running.
The target is 85% of people being treated within two months and the CCG’s overall performance stood at 82.5%.
AMBULANCE RESPONSE TIMES - WORK TO BE DONE
The bottom line is targets were not quite met by the North East Ambulance Service last year (NEAS).
The service was given a 75% target for ambulances to reach the most serious “Category A Red” patients in eight minutes.
NEAS performed well on the most serious life-threatening calls with 80.4% of “Category A Red 1” patients getting an ambulance in less than eight minutes.
But the service fell 14.5% below its target for “Category A Red 2” calls up to October last year – which are life-threatening calls that are not respiratory or cardiac in nature and need an ambulance in eight minutes or less.
The CCG report states these calls have seen a “quite dramatic decrease” in performance since 2014/15 where the 75% standard has never been reached.
And the service also saw a fall in performance for its non-life threatening calls which should have a response within 19 minutes. The report showed that in the past four years 88.8% of people were reached in less than 19 minutes – but that was more than 6% below the 95% target.
Targets and the categories of calls for ambulance were rejigged last year by NHS England.
Categories of calls are now graded one to four with one being the most serious.
Targets were shifted to seven minutes for category one and 18 minutes for category two calls.
C-DIFFICILE - WORK TO BE DONE
Numbers of the sickness bug were still above targets in the CCG area.
But Ms Tempest offered solace by saying cases were down from more than 100 in the previous year to 88 this year.
However, this is still above the aimed number of cases at 72.
“In clinical terms we’ve done a lot of work with patients making sure we have the best possible processes,” she added.
The way GPs prescribe antibiotics was also being scrutinised as some types of drugs can exacerbate c-difficile infections.
Alex Metcalfe , Local Democracy Reporting Service