Occupancy rate ‘unsafe’ at hospitals
OCCUPANCY levels at Southport and Ormskirk hospitals hit record levels well above the recommended safe levels during early 2018.
The occupancy rate for beds at the two hospitals was 93.4% in January to March this year, the joint highest seen at trust since trust-level records began in July to September 2010.
For January to March 2017, the overnight occupancy level was just 76.9%.
Health experts advise that occupancy levels should ideally be under 85%. Anything higher is regarded as 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 desper- ate 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 signifcant 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 confi- dent 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.”
Liz Savage, speaking for the Southport Labour Party, said: “We have repeatedly raised concerns about the problems our hospital and NHS trust face. The local Conservative MP previously dismissed this as “scaremongering” and basically claimed all was well there but one only has to speak to staff or look at the figures to see the pressures they are under.
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.” Desperate state: P4
Damien Moore Liz Savage John Pugh