Hospital staff prepare for tough winter

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Hospitals are braced for a tough winter as they face staff shortages and rising numbers of patients needing treatment.

Bosses at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust are taking new measures to get people in and out of hospital as quickly as possible to cut delays and avoid a cold weather crisis.

The trust, which runs Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury Hospitals, has struggled to meet government targets which say A&E patients should be seen within four hours.

And hundreds of people have been stuck in ambulances waiting to get into hospital because of delays finding beds for A&E patients and in discharging patients already transferred to wards.

Hospitals around the country are also facing budget cuts by the government and problems recruiting enough doctors and nurses.

Mid Yorkshire said dedicated discharge nurses were being placed on wards to speed up the process of getting patients home, a move which could free up 60 beds a day.

The scheme was successfully tested out on gate 41 at Pinderfields.

Chief executive Martin Barkley said: “We have piloted, on wards at Pinderfields, a ward-based discharge nurse and social worker.

“It has been extremely successful.

“We believe we can halve the number of beds occupied by patients who are medically fit enough to be discharged.

“That impact is roughly equivalent to 60 beds a day.

“It should have a significant impact on improving patient flow, reducing delays for patients to be discharged and where patients need to be admitted to hospital.”

Latest figures show Mid Yorkshire was struggling to keep up with demand in August and September, even before winter weather causes more people to need treatment.

Ambulance crews were delayed getting patients into A&E by more than half an hour on 644 occasions in September alone. That was more than 20 times a day and the worst performance among Yorkshire and Humber NHS trusts.

A further 138 patient A&E handovers took more than an hour in September at Mid Yorkshire, leaving paramedics stuck outside hospitals and unable to get to new 999 calls.

The government target for the number of handovers taking more than 30 or sixty minutes is zero.

Guidelines say 95 per cent of A&E patients should be admitted to hospital, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival - but just seven NHS trusts achieved the target in August.

In September, 84.3 per cent were seen within four hours at Mid Yorkshire, which has been ranked as the third busiest in the country for A&E.

NHS bosses are trying to reduce A&E attendances and get patients seen at GP surgeries and walk-in centres.

But attendances at Mid Yorkshire were up almost three per cent compared to the same time last year.

A report to this week’s meeting of the trust board said: “The highest proportional increase has been at PGH (Pinderfields), with a 6.8 per cent increase in September compared to the same period last year”.