East Surrey Hospital boss: ‘We’re bracing for difficult winter’

Michael Wilson, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
Michael Wilson, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

The chief executive of the trust that runs East Surrey Hospital says they are bracing for a ‘difficult winter’.

On Thursday night Michael Wilson, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust which runs the Redhill hospital, told Horsham district councillors that demographic changes had led to ‘tremendous pressure’ on acute health service providers.

This comes as a survey of A&E departments across the country by the NHS Confederation revealed that many could be close to ‘breaking point’ this winter.

However Mr Wilson said in the nearly three years he had been in post, he had secured £50m of investment, with around £7m of that in people and new staff.

“There’s a tremendous pressure on acute providers because the way in which demography is changing,” he said.

“We have not prepared for the demographic changes that we are having to face. That’s the problem.”

He said they were working closely with community providers about an extra 55 beds to get them through winter.

“It’s a good hospital. It does not do everything right and we have got more to do but you have to understand we operate in a very complex environment,” Mr Wilson added.

“We are one of the handful of trusts that are proud to say that we can treat people within 18 weeks.”

On the huge area covered by East Surrey Hospital Mr Wilson said it was ‘unprecedented in scale’ and added: “My view, from me, I would probably not have ended up with what we have got.”

However he defied anybody to deal with the geographical and demographics at East Surrey with 12 years of no investment.

Going forward Mr Wilson said he was very much in favour of investing in the community-led model.

“The unknown is whether it works or not. We do not know,” he added.

“If we are going to put more home based care in, it sounds fine, but if we do not do it right it will be a disaster.”

Expanded outpatient facilities was one of the things mentioned in relation to Horsham Hospital, based in Hurst Road.

Mr Wilson asked: “You have got one of the oldest populations in Horsham. Why would you make anybody come to East Surrey?”

On any new services he would look at commissioning whatever the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) asked him to provide.

Staffing issues within the NHS remained a problem, he thought, as more generalists rather than specialist doctors were needed.

He explained: “There are fundamental problems with the way we train our care professionals in the UK and it will take a decade to sort out.”

Meanwhile he told councillors he was frustrated at the lack of input his consultants had in health plans being drawn up by local health and wellbeing boards.

He explained: “We have to work with them to support them, but they have to work with us and interact with our consultants.”