Hos­pi­tal bed oc­cu­pancy reaches ‘un­safe’ lev­els

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OC­CU­PANCY lev­els at Orm­skirk and South­port hos­pi­tals hit record lev­els well above the rec­om­mended safe lev­els dur­ing early 2018.

The oc­cu­pancy rate for beds at the hos­pi­tals was 93.4% in Jan­uary to March this year, the joint high­est seen there since trustlevel records be­gan in July to Septem­ber 2010.

For Jan­uary to March 2017, the overnight oc­cu­pancy level was just 76.9%.

Ex­perts ad­vise that oc­cu­pancy lev­els should ideally be be­low 85%.

Any­thing higher is riskier for pa­tients as it leads to bed short­ages, pe­ri­odic bed crises, and a rise in health­care-ac­quired in­fec­tions such as MRSA.

A study pub­lished in the Emer­gency Medicine Jour­nal found that reducing bed oc­cu­pancy to 90% or less led to a drop in death rates and an im­prove­ment in wait­ing time per­for­mance in A&E.

Over the same pe­riod, South­port and Orm­skirk hos­pi­tals had 99.2% of gen­eral and acute beds and 38.2% of ma­ter­nity beds oc­cu­pied. Over­all, 412 beds were avail­able in Jan­uary to March 2018, 63 fewer than in Jan­uary to March 2017.

The A&E de­part­ment is un­der­go­ing a £1.25m ex­pan­sion, which will create more beds and a better am­bu­lance han­dover space. The des­per­ate need for the up­grade was proved in De­cem­ber when am­bu­lances queued for up to seven hours.

In two weeks from De­cem­ber 18-31, more than 200 pa­tients had to wait longer than 30 min­utes in am­bu­lances be­fore be­ing ad­mit­ted – 94 of those for more than an hour.

A spokesman for the trust said that im­prov­ing care in A&E and the “flow of pa­tients through the hos­pi­tal to dis­charge” were pri­or­i­ties with sig­nif­i­cant progress be­ing made.

He added that this was be­ing as­sisted by the open­ing of the A&E clin­i­cal de­ci­sion unit on April 30 and a tem­po­rary dis­charge and trans­fer lounge open­ing on Ward 7b at South­port Hos­pi­tal be­fore a per­ma­nent unit next month.

Us­ing lo­cal care home beds to sup­port the tran­si­tion of pa­tients med­i­cally fit to leave the hos­pi­tal also helped.

South­port MP Damien Moore has backed the trust, un­der the lead­er­ship of new chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­las Ni­cholls, to im­prove its per­for­mance.

But other lead­ers in the area are less con­fi­dent ser­vices can cope with cur­rent pres­sures.

Mr Moore said: “I’m con­fi­dent that, with a new chief ex­ec­u­tive, lead­ing an ex­cel­lent staff, the hos­pi­tal will over­come any prob­lems they’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing right now.

“Re­cently, I helped se­cure an ad­di­tional £1.35m for the trust, which they are mak­ing good use of.”

Cllr John Pugh, leader of South­port Lib­eral Demo­crat group, said: “High oc­cu­pancy can be a sign of ef­fi­ciency but it can also be sign that the hos­pi­tal is strug­gling to dis­charge pa­tients back into the com­mu­nity.

“Pres­sure is build­ing up par­tic­u­larly as the num­bers of frail el­derly in the com­mu­nity in­creases. Close rel­a­tives of mine are among those sta­tis­tics, so I have first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of this.”

Orm­skirk Hos­pi­tal has been badly af­fected by high bed oc­cu­pancy lev­els

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