Tackling the NHS reforms

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A RISING and ageing population and a delicate financial balancing act are just two of the tricky problems faced by bosses at the city’s hospital.

And while most of us would acknowledge the sterling work done by nurses at the coalface, Milton Keynes Hospital has found itself on the wrong end of some pretty painful headlines in recent times.

From scathing criticism of the maternity unit – thankfully, since vastly improved – to the revelation that £1.7 million was spent on consultants’ fees there have been some tough questions to answer.

Of course, there have been bright points as well, not least the fantastic effort made to raise £250,000 to improve the valuable neo-natal unit.

So when I joined Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart to do the rounds at the hospital I was eager to gain some real insight.

The NHS faces daily challenges. Managing levels of patients with differing requirements sounds challenging enough. But add to that the demands of an ageing population in a growing city and the challenge is greater than people imagine.

As Mr Stewart and I were given a tour around key wards, we met staff who were positive, and hard-working, but who were not shying away from problems.

First stop on our tour was the Clinical Decisions Unit. Here patients are sent from A&E for further assessment.

The unit also arranges for future care such as social services for those who need it – a fact that caught the attention of Mr Stewart.

He said: “I was favourably impressed by the facilities in the hospital in general. However, it was reassuring to know that people are cared for after they are discharged and efforts are made to make sure they are not on their own.

““I was also struck, but not shocked, by the level of dedication shown by staff to make improvements. The hospital has had its problems, but I was impressed they have taken necessary, small steps to making a big difference.”

These sorts of ‘sightseeing’ tours are vital for the MP: “The visit was fascinating and very useful for me to get an insight into the hospital.

“Actually getting in there gives you a clearer perspective.”

The biggest education for Iain and I was to follow a patient’s path, from admittance to discharge, in each of the different wards and how staff keep on top of each patient’s progress.

Mr Stewart said: “It was amazing to see the intricate detail observed on each ward and how staff keep on top of it all in a difficult environment.

“Managing that plus the negative demands they face, it would be easy to panic but I was impressed with the levels of professionalism.”

One initiative backed by Mr Stewart was the Red Tray project. It is designed to show when a patient needs help with their eating and drinking. Run by volunteers, the service has won praise from staff and visitors alike.

Ultimately hospitals will continue to face daily challenges – but the dedicated team at MK are turning the corner and happy to report a healthy prognosis.