Hospital bed occupancy remains high

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS England is publishing data each week which documents how each hospital trust is coping with the winter crisis based on key indicators.

Here’s how Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust coped in the week of February 26 to March 4.

BED OCCUPANCY

The trust’s beds were 89.7 per cent full on average, above the recommended safe limit of 85 per cent.

In hospitals where more than 85 per cent of beds are occupied, there is a greater risk of patients receiving inadequate care, being placed on an inappropriate ward for their condition, or contracting superbugs such as MRSA, according to the British Medical Association.

Occupancy rates have largely stayed the same since the previous week’s report.

Of 902 available beds, 809 were in use on average throughout the week. Of these, seven were ‘escalation beds’, temporary beds set up in periods of intense pressure. These are sometimes placed in areas not usually used for hospital patients, such as gyms or day care centres.

This is largely the same as the previous week.

Bed blocking, where a patient is well enough to be discharged but unable to leave because the next stage of their care has not been organised, contributes significantly to A&E delays. Some 177 patients had spent at least three weeks in hospital, taking up 19.6 per cent of all beds.

AMBULANCES

There were 700 arrivals by ambulance during the week.

The trust dealt with fewer emergency patients than the previous week, when there were 832 arrivals.

Of these, 48 waited between 30 minutes and an hour before they could be transferred to the emergency department. This was lower than the previous week’s figure of 90. In addition, 16 patients waited longer than an hour. This was lower than the previous week’s figure of 36.

The Department of Health says ambulance crews should be able to hand patients over to A&E staff within the 15-minute target time.

NOROVIRUS

The vomiting bug norovirus is placing additional strain on hospitals which are already struggling to find enough beds. The virus is highly contagious, so staff must close an entire ward where a patient is infected.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust closed nine beds when the norovirus problem was at its most severe. The previous week three beds were closed due to the vomiting bug.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Winter is always a challenging time for the NHS and we continue to see high demand for our services.

“Despite these pressures, we continue to deliver high quality care to our patients across our trust thanks to the hard work of our staff.”

“It is important to note, however, that bed occupancy figures are reported under the national definition of ‘general and acute beds’ and include areas which would not be suitable for adult patients admitted in an emergency.”