Winter still biting hard on Northumbria Healthcare hospitals

The pressures of winter are still being felt within Northumbria Healthcare hospitals, according to the latest NHS figures.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th February 2018, 9:23 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th February 2018, 4:21 pm
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington, which is run by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington, which is run by 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 January 29 to February 4.


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The trust's beds were 88.5% full on average, above the recommended safe limit of 85%.

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.

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

Of 916 available beds, 811 were in use on average throughout the week.

Of these, 5 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 163 patients had spent at least three weeks in hospital, taking up 17.8% of all beds.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Winter is always an extremely challenging time for the NHS and all year we work hard to ensure we are as prepared as we possibly can be.

“However, it is important to note that bed occupancy figures are reported under the national definition of ‘general and acute beds’ and include those in areas, such as our special care baby unit and paediatric unit, which would not be used for adult patients who are admitted in an emergency.”


There were 778 arrivals by ambulance during the week. The trust had dealt with more emergency patients than the previous week, when there were 755 arrivals.

Of these, 66 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 73.

In addition, 13 patients waited longer than an hour. This was lower than the previous week's figure of 73.

The Department of Health says ambulance crews should be able to hand patients over to A&E staff within the 15-minute target time. Failure to meet this target increases the risk to patients and can delay ambulances from attending other emergencies.


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 16 beds when the norovirus problem was at its most severe.

The previous week, 30 beds were closed due to the vomiting bug.

Dr Rushmer said: “We expect demand to rise at this time of year, however, for us over the last few weeks, this has been exacerbated by outbreaks of norovirus and flu.

“Despite these pressures, we continue to deliver high quality care to our patients across our trust thanks to the hard work of our staff and would appeal to residents to use services wisely during this incredibly busy time.”