Northumbria hospitals among best performing in England during NHS winter crisis

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was one of a few trusts in the country which kept bed occupancy at a safe level over the festive period, according to the latest NHS data.

Monday, 8th January 2018, 1:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th January 2018, 1:26 pm
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington

The Trust's beds were 84% full on average in the week leading up to the New Year, below the recommended upper limit of 85%.

Of 890 total available beds, 749 were in use on average between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

The figures show two of these 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.

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In hospitals where more than 85% 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.

Nationally, 92% of general and acute hospital beds were occupied, while just 16 trusts out of 137 who reported winter data to the NHS met the 85% target over the week.

The winter is always the busiest time of year for the NHS, and occupancy rates have stayed largely the same since last year.

In the last week, 16% of beds were taken by patients who had been there for three weeks or longer, while 43% of patients had been in hospital for longer than a 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, has contributed significantly to A&E delays in recent years.

A small number of additional 'critical' beds are available to patients with serious or life-threatening conditions. There were 30 critical beds available in the last week, and 95% of these were occupied.

Responding to the crisis, the NHS has instructed hospitals to delay non-urgent treatment such as joint operations and cataract surgery to relieve pressure on Accident & Emergency departments.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents which represents the health service's acute, ambulance, community and mental health services, said: "The trust CEOs we have spoken to and the social media posts we have seen suggest that the NHS is currently under very significant pressure.

"Some are describing it as the most difficult set of urgent and emergency care pressures they have experienced. We would expect this pressure to be reflected in urgent/emergency care performance stats when they are published."