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Archive - Friday, 7 December 2012
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A national report this week suggested that staff at “full to bursting” hospitals across the UK are struggling to maintain the safety and quality of patients’ care.
The Dr Foster report also highlighted that bed occupancy rates in many hospitals are often well above 85 per cent, the maximum for patients to be well looked after and not exposed to health risks. It all makes news of the severe pressure on beds in Oxfordshire’s main hospitals all the more worrying. With some justification, Oxfordshire’s main health trust can link big rises in admissions to the arrival of winter, bringing in its wake ‘flu, falls and pneumonia cases. But ominously we are already seeing a shortage of beds, with autumn having barely passed. Make no mistake, things will only get worse if the experience of the last 50 years is anything to go by. Fractured bones will come as surely as the ice, putting elderly patients in hospital beds for weeks and months. The trust has acted quickly introducing up to 90 extra beds and making appeals to the public not to go to emergency departments unless absolutely necessary. New efforts are being made to free up more beds occupied by the elderly, with an expansion of homecare teams.
Given that our main hospital trust has been working with GPs and social services for years in an attempt to reduce the problem of bedblocking, with only limited success, a great deal will rest on how this new discharge process works.
Meanwhile, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust tells us planned and elective operations are not being stopped and hospital doors remain thankfully open. With numbers fluctuating from day to day, if not hour to hour, and patients requiring different levels of specialisms, it remains difficult to know just how bad things now are. Hospitals always seem to be full but there are early indications that the pressure they face this winter will be unusually intense. But if you want a snapshot of where we were in November, just read about the experience of the lung cancer patient with a lymph leak, who faced a 14-hour wait for a bed. He might have been unlucky but we fear there will be many, many more unlucky patients this winter.