Lynn hospital bosses have admitted they could have a long and hard winter ahead – but insist they are ready to face the challenge.
Senior figures at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital have been setting out some of the measures which they hope will help them meet demand over the coming months.
But they concede that a particularly cold winter, or a high number of flu cases, could make things “very, very difficult.”
Chief executive Jon Green said: “The NHS is in a particularly challenging place at the moment.
“We’re no different from that here and we face many of the same challenges that are highlighted across the country.
“I think we’re in a good position going into winter, but that is not to under-estimate how difficult it’s going to be.”
The annual flu vaccination campaign to encourage residents, especially those in high-risk groups such as older people, pregnant women and patients with an underlying health condition, is due to be launched later this week.
And Mr Green said evidence from other parts of the world highlighted the need to get the vaccination message across early.
He said: “The winter they have had in Australia, where they have had a really bad time with flu, is a real concern.”
Winter planning follows on from a difficult summer with higher than expected admission levels forcing escalation beds that are normally only used in the winter months to be called into action.
But Mr Green said the position was now “much better” than it had been at times in June, July and August and those beds had now not been used for several weeks.
Earlier this year, the hospital signed up to the Red 2 Green programme, which is intended to ensure patients are discharged more quickly.
Work is also being done in an attempt to reduce the hospital’s current 11 per cent vacancy rate, which Mr Green admitted was “too high.”
Papers presented to last week’s board meeting showed the hospital had spent more than £1.3 million on agency staff in August, its highest monthly total since March.
But the trust has held two recruitment days, which are intended to speed up the process of attracting and appointing new staff.
Mr Green said seven registered nurses and 11 healthcare assistants had been offered posts following the latest recruitment day, while 36 healthcare assistants were recruited at the initial event.