Hospital facing severe beds shortage

By Jonathan BarnesONE of the region's biggest hospitals has been forced to only admit patients who need emergency treatment. Some operations were cancelled at Ipswich Hospital yesterday, while a high number of bed-blockers meant beds were in short supply.

By Jonathan Barnes

ONE of the region's biggest hospitals has been forced to only admit patients who need emergency treatment.

Some operations were cancelled at Ipswich Hospital yesterday, while a high number of bed-blockers meant beds were in short supply.

Hospital bosses appealed for the public's help in easing the situation by considering whether they could visit their GP or call NHS Direct before going to its accident and emergency department.


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The hospital was forced to switch to “Blue Light Only” - when only emergency cases are admitted - on Wednesday night because of what it called extremely high levels of activity and that remained the case last night.

Chris Dooley, acting chief executive of the 850-bed hospital, said: “We are exceptionally busy and we are only able to admit people who need predominately emergency or very urgent treatment.

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“Unfortunately, this has meant that some patients will have had their operations cancelled. This is known as being on 'Blue Light Only' and it is not a decision we ever take lightly.

“We have had to make it because of very real concerns about the high levels of bed occupancy with extra beds in several wards and the sheer pressure of workload faced by our staff.

“We are doing all we can to try to ease the pressures including making sure that patients who are well enough to leave hospital and be cared for elsewhere are able to be discharged. The delays in patients leaving hospital are having a very big impact on us.”

Christine Smart, chairman of Ipswich Hospital Trust, added: “We are always here for everyone all day, everyday.

“But it has been exceptionally busy and we would urge people to stop and think if there are other ways of accessing the help they need - though pharmacies, their own GP or by calling NHS Direct before coming to the accident and emergency department.”

Senior clinicians and managers have been meeting every hour to try to ease the pressures on the hospital and come off “Blue Light Only” status.

Meanwhile, the hospital has experienced a “significant deterioration” in its ability to meet an outpatient waiting time target.

In January Ipswich Hospital had 692 patients referred from their doctor or dentist waiting more than 13 weeks for an appointment with a specialist consultant.

The Waiting List Performance and Activity Monitoring Report, which will go before the trust's board today, showed outpatient waits were 66% off its target, with 274 more people than expected waiting longer than the 13 weeks.

The report said that represented a significant deterioration over the previous month and an improvement was needed - by December, the Government wants every patient to be seen within the 13-week threshold.

Meanwhile the number of patients treated at the hospital increased again in January, with 4,451 accident and emergency cases, compared to 4,189 in December 2004 and more than the 4,412 in the trust's plan for January.

Jan Rowsell, hospital spokeswoman, said: “January was a very busy month and we did have quite a lot more emergency admissions in January than planned, with a couple of hundred more than the previous month.

“The busyness of the hospital does have an impact on outpatient times. It does impact on our ability to bring people in for outpatient appointments and increases the pressure on the resources of the hospital.

“We are doing absolutely everything we can to meet the target. The sort of things we are doing include running extra clinics and letting people know as quickly as possible that they can come into see us.

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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