New Norfolk hospital chairman’s pledge to improve ambulance handover times

John Fry, the new chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley

John Fry, the new chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

The new chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said there was more work to do to raise Accident and Emergency performance, despite improvements in ambulance turnaround times.

John Fry, the new chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley

John Fry, the new chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

John Fry started his new role last month at the NHS foundation trust after more than 10 years as CEO of media and publishing companies.

The new chairman also pledged that the hospital trust would move towards more openness and transparency as he gets to grips with how Norfolk's busiest hospital works.

The 56-year-old, who lives in Saxlingham Nethergate, near Norwich, was chief executive of regional media group Johnston Press from 2009 to 2012, and from 2002 was chief executive of Archant – publisher of the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.

Mr Fry said he was proud to become the new chairman of the Colney hospital and he was keen to bring his communications experience to the NHS trust – which also runs Cromer Hospital.

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The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital hit national headlines in April when a tent had to be erected outside A&E as a precaution because patients were waiting up to three hours in the back of an ambulance at the front doors of the hospital. It followed reports of 17 ambulances being queued up outside the hospital on March 6.

However, ambulance turnaround times have begun to improve in recent months with only 16 patients having to wait more than 60 minutes to be handed over from ambulance to A&E, compared to 109 patients who waited for over an hour in April.

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Mr Fry said plans were being drawn up to redesign A&E to help improve performance and trust officials were working hard to reduce handover delays.

'Ambulance turnaround times are really improving. We have 3,000 ambulances a month and sometimes there are clinical reasons for a wait in an ambulance, like people with infections. It will never get down to zero and we need to work to improve turnaround times.'

'A&E is a very successful service and more and more people are coming to A&E each year. That is success and has stimulated thought about how we should improve to provide a better service to the folks of Norfolk and north Suffolk. That is our number one goal – to treat and care for local people and improving services,' he said.

Mr Fry succeeds David Prior, who stepped down after 10 years as chairman to become chairman of the healthcare regulator for England, the Care Quality Commission.

The father-of-four said: 'My first impressions are that it is very busy. We do one million appointments a year and you can physically see that as you come to the hospital – with lots of people coming and going. The thing that surprised me was the number of outpatient appointments.

'I am interested in information flows and how we communicate. How we communicate before they come in and when they are here and after and how we use technology in that process. The whole philosophy of the hospital is leading edge.'

Mr Fry said he was amazed by the number of people who volunteered at the hospital and who raised funds for the trust to buy new equipment to improve treatment.

The NHS trust launched a £600,000 appeal last year to create new facilities to deliver a new type of radiotherapy for patients with gynaecological and prostate cancers. The hospital is already a sixth of the way to hitting its Targeted Radiotherapy Appeal to provide brachytherapy treatments, which means patients can receive treatment locally rather than travelling to Cambridge or London.

He said: 'There is a huge amount of goodwill in the community and you can see that through the fundraising activities and volunteers that help patients every day. It is a hospital with very strong links in the community.'

The foundation trust holds governors meetings in public, but stages its board meetings behind closed doors.

Mr Fry said he wanted the hospital to be more open and provide more information to local people.

'There is a move to transparency in all sorts of ways in society and information flows from publicly funded organisations will increase. I think the public will get access to more information and that must be right.'

'With board meetings I think we will move to more public board meetings. Some of the items are fine for discussion in public and some have to be discussed in private because they relate to the care of individuals. Getting the right balance is important. The direction is very clear towards more availability of information.'

'We are paid for by the public and serve the public and we therefore have to have our eyes and ears open to what the public say,' he said.

A graduate of Cambridge University, Mr Fry was chairman of Shaping Norfolk's Future from 2007 to 2009 and has lived in Norfolk with his family since 2002.

'This is a very interesting and stimulating environment and working with great people and I think that is very attractive.

'The NHS impacts on the lives of us and our families.

'It is all about continually improving the healthcare and facilities for local people, whether that is cardiology or radiotherapy and investing in equipment and staff training,' he said.

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