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Acknowledgement from Ashford & St Peter's Hospitals NHS Trust:
Thank you to all those who have contributed comments to the Panorama Forum following last Sunday's programme. The thoughtful and constructive comments from both within and outside the service reflect the skill with which the Panorama team produced such a balanced and illuminating commentary on some of the key issues that the NHS faces everyday.

Along with other Trusts, we were approached by Panorama in connection with a programme they wished to make on the NHS Plan. Panorama's stated aim was to explore the Government's vision for the NHS, as set out in the NHS Plan, by reference to current issues.

We allowed St Peter's to serve as the canvas for this portrait, not because we thought that St Peter's was necessarily typical of the NHS as a whole but because we are committed to the modernisation of the NHS and are happy to play our part in a healthy debate about the challenges ahead.

Much progress is already being made as the extra funding for the NHS takes effect but, as we all know, this is a long term project.

Some people criticised the use of the term "bed blockers" and we agree that this is a pejorative term which we do not use at Ashford & St Peter's. We prefer to use the term "delayed discharges". As many of the comments to the Forum indicate, this is a familiar problem which touches upon both health and social care services.

A number of people also commented that the programme concentrated on nurses and did not also highlight the work of other NHS staff. In their two months with us Panorama gathered far more footage than they could ever use in the time allowed for the programme but we know that they were equally impressed by the contribution made by all members of the hospital team, be they clinical or support staff.

Some people have touched upon the abuse and, regrettably, violence that NHS staff may experience in the course of their work. Like all hospitals we have welcomed the Government's Zero Tolerance initiative aimed at highlighting this problem and have developed a local policy to support staff who may find themselves in such a situation.

Although many of the comments reflected similar pressures throughout the country others have recognised the added difficulties of recruitment in the South East due to high housing costs. Again this issue has been recognised centrally (a London housing "Czar" has been appointed for the NHS) and locally this is being tackled through affordable housing initiatives in liaison with Housing Associations and Local Authorities.

A local issue that has drawn comment is the reconfiguration of services that took place between Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals last October. As a result emergency surgical and orthopaedic trauma cases have been brought only to St Peter's where specialist teams and facilities can be provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This would not be possible if we continued to try to provide this service across both sites. This accounts for only a small proportion of the emergency work and Ashford Hospital has continued to receive medical emergencies, in greater number than before. Its Emergency Department remains open and busy 24 hours a day and the hospital is expanding its inpatient and day case surgical workload.

Finally we would like to thank the Panorama team for the discretion and sensitivity they showed to our patients and staff during their time with us and for demonstrating that the media can portray such complex issues in a fair and understandable way.

Stephen Fash
Chief Executive

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