A major part of our role as a University Hospitals Trust is to be a teaching organisation and a leader in research and development. An important partner in this is the University of Nottingham and it was pleasure on Wednesday night to attend a showcase event in the School of Medicine building. The event had been arranged by Professor Juan Alcolado who is the Head of the Medical School at Royal Derby as a way of briefing our Governors about our research and education activities. Until recently Juan has also served as a staff governor on our Council.
I was particularly impressed by the presentations given by some of our leaders in clinical research within the Trust. Professor Maarten Taal and Dr Nick Selby provided an update on our kidney disease research in Derby – we are a national and indeed an international leader in this field of study. We also heard from Professor Adam Gordon who is one of our Health Care of the Elderly physicians but leads on research into the care of older people. I was particularly interested in the work that his team is doing with nursing homes and about how the model of care there could be developed to improve the lives of their residents and reduce the demand on health services. Professor Kwok Leung Cheung one of our breast surgeons shared some fascinating work regarding the biology of breast tumours and how this can change depending on the patients’ age. This research is causing us to rethink our approach to treatment.
As well as research which is directly related to the treatment of patients, we also carry out what’s called ‘basic science’ at the hospital which is more laboratory based research. It was fascinating to hear from Professor Nate Szewczyk who is a leading researcher in the field of space biology. One of the challenges to space exploration is the muscle wastage experienced by astronauts. Professor Szewczyk is able to mimic this effect in the laboratory using microscopic worms – yes worms have muscles too! His research will help us to find ways of treating muscle wastage and is funded by the European Space Agency, NASA and many others. And believe it or not, within the next couple of years some of our very own Derby worms are booked on a Space X flight and will take a trip into orbit! You might be wondering what space worms and astronauts have to do with providing healthcare but remember it’s not only astronauts who experience muscle wastage – also patients on bed rest or those who are immobile and so there are more down to earth practical applications of this work.
On Tuesday we had our public board meeting and usually we begin with a patient story but this time it was a little different. We had an amazing presentation from Mr Shyam Rajagopalan, a trauma surgeon based at Queen’s Hospital in Burton, who together with the trauma team there has systematically improved the care of hip fracture patients over the last couple of years. They shared a variety of data which demonstrated how the changes they’d made in organising their service had made a measureable improvement in the care patients receive.
As a result of their efforts patients wait less time to receive their surgery, have increased therapy support and input from the orthogeriatricians who help manage the medical aspects of patients care. This has led to a reduced length of stay in hospital and also improved outcomes for patients. Shyam also mentioned how the trauma services in Derby and Burton have been working closely together and how this mutual support had helped to accelerate the benefits that they’ve achieved. Fantastic stuff.
Also at the Board this time we had an update from Sharon Martin our Chief Operating Officer regarding the increased emergency care demand, particularly in the post-Christmas period. She gave an update on a range of measures taken by the Trust and our wider system partners to help manage the anticipated winter pressures, although the scale of increased demand is much greater than was anticipated. The Board particularly wanted to acknowledge the hard work that everyone across UHDB is doing day in day out to meet this increased demand and to keep our patients safe.
One of the many actions we took as part of our winter plan was the creation of a new facility at Ward 2 in London Road Community Hospital for end of life patients. Sadly it’s sometimes the case that patients are admitted to hospital in an emergency when there is no further curative treatment possible. Our job in these circumstances is to make patients as comfortable as possible and try to create the conditions for that patient and their families to have a good death. Given the pressures within an acute hospital this can be a real challenge at times.
Ward 2 at London Road offers a soothing and peaceful environment with large rooms and an outside space which provides a better environment for our dying patients. The unit has only been open for 10 days or so but already the feedback from families is incredibly positive. It’s great to see such a positive development has come from our response to a challenging increase in emergency demand. Well done to everyone who’s worked so hard to make this new service available in a short space of time and for making it possible.
Now the challenges of winter certainly put a pressure on all of our staff at UHDB but you may not know that our volunteers are also a key part of UHDB family and have really pulled out the stops over the last few weeks. For example on one particularly busy day at Royal Derby our meet and greet volunteers were helping to make drinks for patients and staff and to give out lunches and to support staff in any way that they could. Great to hear everyone pulling together.
So in other news this week it was good to meet up with Dr Andrew Tabner who’s one of our newer consultants and works in the Emergency Department at Royal Derby as it happens – it was really helpful to get his perspective as a front line clinician regarding some of the challenges and what we might do to meet them.
Magnus Harrison our Medical Director and I meet up with another hard working team this week – our clinical oncologists who provide cancer treatment including radiotherapy. There’s a national shortage in doctors who can provide radiotherapy, but also radiographers and physicists who support the service. This team works tirelessly to ensure that our cancer patients get the treatment they need but it was good to discuss some of their challenges and begin to formulate a longer term plan to address them.
Also this week Kathy our Chair and I have spent a lot of time with system partners both in Staffordshire and Derbyshire talking about our longer term plans. The solutions to some of the challenges I’ve described in this week’s blog will not be found within the walls of our hospitals but actually by working together with our system partners in primary care, community services and mental health and with local authority colleagues too. However the work that is happening in both counties is moving in the right direction and will help us to develop more integrated and hopefully responsive services for patients in the future.
Thanks once again to all our teams working so hard on the front line – I’m Exec on-call for Royal Derby this weekend so if you’re working there you may well see me around!
Have a great weekend