THE trust running the county’s hospitals said it must work harder to cut waiting times and ensure the public is travelling to the correct hospital for care as it prepares to move out of special measures for the first time in almost four years.

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, admitted more needed to be done to ensure the public knew the most suitable place for treatment in the face of increasing demand and an overloaded emergency department.

He said: “The challenge at A&E departments across the county is that people know that the lights are always on and the doors are always open and perhaps rather than waiting for a GP appointment for a day or two, [people] would rather go somewhere where they are going to be seen immediately. That is not always the right place to go.”

“One of the things that we need to be better at is, when one of the three main hospital sites in the county is experiencing greater demand, that members of the public know that actually it would be quicker to get the problem sorted somewhere else.

“We have to reduce waiting times. It’s not about making excuses, where you can get quicker care you go there but we still need to reduce waiting times.

He said it would be much quicker and better for some patients to travel to a minor injuries unit in Kidderminster than it would be to sit for eight hours in A&E in Worcester.

“But we do need an honest conversation with the public that the resources, either money or staffing, are not there for you to have everything you might want at the end of your street,” he told councillors at a recent meeting of Worcestershire County Council health and overview scrutiny.

“And we need to be able to demonstrate to the people of Worcestershire that the service you get when you go the one place that provides that the care is ‘good’.”

“If you’re travelling further and it’s not very good, that is not great. If you’re travelling a fit further but you’re getting the care that meets your needs and is rated ‘good’ then perhaps that is the deal isn’t it?”

Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors recommended the trust running the county’s hospitals should move out of its special measures status but only after a ‘support package’ between inspectors, the NHS and the hospital’s other partners – including bosses at Worcestershire County Council, West Midlands Ambulance Service and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust – is agreed.

Hospital trust bosses are currently finalising plans for the ‘support package’ in time for a final decision in November.

The trust said it is also trying to speed up discharging patients by installing an electronic prescription system at some point next year, to replace the slow and “clunky” written system currently in place.

The trust’s chief executive said the aim was to get patients leaving wards and picking up medication within two hours after a decision had been made.

Mr Hopkins said the trust could also speed up the process by ensuring trainee junior doctors could prescribe the medication that patients are likely to need before leaving the hospital.

He said: “We know there are a number of things that we can do differently and better but fundamentally it is still going to take a couple of hours overall to get a patient home after a decision has been taken.”

West Midlands Ambulance Service will also take over the running of the NHS 111 service from November, a move that will be of great benefit to the hospital trust, the chief executive said.

He said: “It is unlikely there will be a massive impact until probably the early new year but our hope, and their ambition, is to reduce from the 13 per cent of calls that get an ambulance down to the national average which is between seven and eight per cent.

“The sooner they can do that, the better it will be for my hospitals because we’ll be receiving the patients we should be receiving rather than perhaps some that could be managed in a different way.”