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How well are Bucks hospitals coping this winter?

Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Published by Charlotte Fisher at 2:05pm 15th January 2019. (Updated at 3:14pm 15th January 2019)

How well are Buckinghamshire hospitals coping with winter pressures?

NHS England publishes weekly reports which reveal whether hospital trusts are struggling to manage during the colder months, based on key indicators.

This is how Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust coped from December 31 to January 6.

Bed Occupancy:

General and acute wards at Buckinghamshire Healthcare were 96.3% full on average, well above the safe limit of 85% recommended by health experts.

The occupancy rate has increased since the previous week, when the trust was 92.8% full.

British Medical Association guidelines state "to ensure safe patient care, occupancy should ideally not exceed 85%". According to NHS Improvement, occupancy rates of 92% and above lead to significantly worse A&E performance.

The BMA also raised concerns about the number of available beds needed to cope with winter demands.

On average, Buckinghamshire Healthcare had 567 available beds each day, of which 546 were in use.

Of those, 21 were escalation beds - temporary beds set up in periods of intense pressure.

According to NHS Improvement, a higher proportion of long-stay patients can impact the ability of hospitals to accommodate urgent admissions and manage bed capacity.

At Buckinghamshire Healthcare, 253 patients had been in hospital for a week or more , taking up more than 40% of the occupied beds.

Of these, 118 patients had been in hospital for at least three weeks, making up 22% of all occupied beds.

Ambulances:

A total of 510 patients were taken by ambulance to A&E during the week . That's a rise in emergency arrivals compared to the previous week, when 495 patients were brought by ambulance.

Delays left 30 patients waiting 30 minutes or more before they could be transferred.

Of those, five unlucky individuals waited longer than an hour.

NHS Improvement guidance states that ambulance crews should hand patients over to A&E staff within 15 minutes of arrival.

Any delay in transferring patients leaves ambulances unable to respond to other emergencies, as well as risking their patients' safety.

Delays affected more patients than the previous week, when 14 patients waited more than 30 minutes to be transferred.

Norovirus:

Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is highly contagious. Outbreaks spread rapidly through hospitals, causing staff to close beds to prevent infection spreading.

But at Buckinghamshire Healthcare, no beds were closed due to norovirus outbreaks - both during the most recent week and over the previous one.

Natalie Fox is Chief Operating Officer at Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust:

"At the Trust we continually work hard to get patients home swiftly and safely following treatment, at the right time for them and their families.

"Over the last couple of weeks we have been busy, but this is in line with the experience of other trusts nationally. We are proud of the efforts of all of our staff who work collaboratively with partners across health and care services in the region.

"As a system we aim to stay below a bed occupancy rate of 92%, however, as part of our planning for this busier time of year, when we do go above this level we are able to open pre-prepared escalation areas to accommodate the rise in patients requiring hospital care.

"We’ve introduced a range of measures to ensure that patients aren’t in hospital longer than they need to be so beds are available for those who need them most.

"These include: planning for discharge from the moment a patient is admitted; close collaboration with social care partners to ensure patients can return home as soon as they are medically fit to do so; and initiatives such as ‘Get Up, Get Dressed, Get Moving’ to help speed up patient recovery and reduce their length of stay.

"Additionally, we have expanded our community services to support people to stay healthier for longer in their own home and avoid a hospital admission."

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