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Hospitals so busy it’s like an emergency
WINTER pressure on hospitals has been so severe that NHS chiefs have treated it the same way they would “a major incident”.
Demand for acute hospital beds in the new year led the NHS to declare a ‘level four’ emergency which is the same as if it were dealing with a major incident, said leaders at Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust.
The trust runs the five community hospitals in Malvern, Evesham, Pershore, Tenbury and Bromsgrove and other forms of intermediate care which are vital in taking pressure off acute hospitals such as Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester and the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch and in making sure patients get care closer to home.
Jan Ditheridge, the trust’s chief operating officer, said at a meeting of the trust: “Over the new year we have seen significant pressure on the needs of the acute trust for medical beds. This has required a response from the whole health and the social care economy (GPs, nursing homes and community hospitals). We would expect to see this spike (in demand) but it has been particularly challenging this year.”
Mrs Ditheridge said the outbreak was ‘level four’ because it reflected the action that would be taken in the event of a major incident at a time when the NHS has experienced a 30 per cent increase in activity.
She said: “We are managing more people with more activity in our community teams over a period where there was intense pressure on the acute trust to create medical beds for seriously ill people. I don’t think the peak has finished.”
She said despite the pressure the trust had never had to use all beds in community hospitals. This has been achieved by staff from the health and care trust helping acute hospital patients to be discharged safely into the community and their own homes during peak times.
Sarah Dugan, the trust’s chief executive, said that pressure on beds had been managed by increased community support. Intermediate care teams have been supporting people to go home from acute hospitals like Worcester and from community hospitals.