Clinical care team banking on electronic support system

The team at Eastbourne DGH's Critical Care Unit
The team at Eastbourne DGH's Critical Care Unit

THIS year a major fundraising campaign is underway - headed up by the Friends of the Eastbourne Hospitals - to raise £130,000 for a vital piece of equipment for the DGH Critical Care Unit.

Herald chief reporter Annemarie Field was invited behind the doors of the unit to see how the much-needed equipment will benefit the unit and allow its dedicated staff to improve their care of the critically ill.

IF YOU haven’t had the misfortune of having to visit a loved one fighting for life in Eastbourne DGH’s Critical Care Unit, the intensive care department is something of an enigma.

We have probably all walked past the doors of the unit on our way to other wards in the hospital and wondered exactly what goes on within its walls where people are fighting for their lives.

It’s the hub of the hospital where the most ill are treated either after accidents or if they are recovering from life-saving surgery.

Last year from January to December some 403 patients passed through the critical care unit and it was 80 per cent full throughout the year.

It has five intensive care beds - where people are on ventilators - and three high-dependency beds for patients who can breathe on their own but need a close eye kept on them.

It has a dedicated team of more than 50 staff including nurses, health care assistants and cleaners - not to mention a team of consultants with specialist training in intensive care medicine.

The Eastbourne CCU is one of the most successful in the south east but there is something that could improve its service and, more importantly, make life more comfortable for its patients and their distraught relatives on their bedside vigils.

As well as regular checks, its team of nurses spend the best part of their time meticulously recording all the information from computers surrounding their patients’ beds onto huge paper date sheets.

Those computers measure everything from heart rate to blood pressure.

Yet a simple piece of electronic kit – the Clinical Information System – could automatically read all that information, import it, analyse it and free up the nursing staff to do what they do best and spend time looking after their patients and their distraught relatives keeping bedside vigils.

The cost of the system is in the region of £130,000 and the challenge of raising that money has been taken up by the Friends of the Eastbourne Hospitals which has chosen the Critical Care Unit as its special project.

Thousands of pounds have already been raised and tomorrow night (Saturday) the major fundraising event on the Friends’ calendar, the Spring Ball at the Winter Garden, takes place.

It is hoped to boost the coffers even further next month when a team of surgeons do a sponsored cycle to Paris.

One of the duty consultants, Dr Rhian Edwards, is delighted the CIS may became a reality.

“The sheets the nurses and consultants write on and refer to are huge and it takes up so much time,” the consultant said.

“With the new piece of equipment, we can do away with these and the CIS will continuously take all the information on the numerous screens surrounding patients’ beds. You can also put certain criteria into the CIS, it can store photograhs amd images from x-rays and it really does save working hours.

“It frees up nurses’ time to spend more time with the patients and their families and nearest and dearest - good old fashioned nursing.

“The patients we deal with are very ill and their condition can change so quickly.

“We have had a very, very busy year. The unit isn’t just for patients who have come in through A&E as a result of an accident, but it is also for people who have been on wards that may have deteriorated and need a higher level of care.

“We work very much as a team and this vital piece of equipment will have such a positive impact on patient care.”

Peter Nash, the chairman of the Friends, said he hoped the people of the town would support the appeal.

He said, “Currently patient information management and documentation is paper-based and relies on the nurse at the bedside writing down every hour all the vital signs, ventilation, settings, drug and fluid infusion rates and hourly input and output calculations, all of which is very time consuming.

“The CIS will save time, have many benefits for patients and their relatives, staff and the hospital and the speed and efficiency of the system helps reduce the average length of time a patient spends in CCU.”

Further details on the initiative are available from the Friends office at the DGH on 417400 ext 4696 or www.esht.nhs.uk/friends/eastbourne