Patient care concerns at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHST Trust as winter pressures continue

editorial image

Concerns have been raised about patient care at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust as winter pressures continue.

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

From January 21-27, general and acute wards were 97% full on average, far exceeding the safe limit of 85% recommended by health experts.

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, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust had 1,109 available beds each day, of which 1,075 were in use.

Of those, five were escalation beds - temporary beds set up in periods of intense pressure, often in corridors or day care centres.

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.

The report said 395 patients had been in hospital for a week or more, taking up more than a third of the occupied beds.

Of these, 155 patients had been in hospital for at least three weeks, making up 14% of all occupied beds.

A total of 1,121 patients were taken by ambulance to A&E during the week. That’s a significant rise in emergency arrivals compared to the previous week, when 916 patients were brought by ambulance.

Delays left 130 patients waiting 30 minutes or more before they could be transferred - more than 10% of all ambulance arrivals.

Of those, three patients had to wait 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.

The previous week, 132 patients waited more than 30 minutes to be transferred.

During the week, hospital staff were forced to close 12 beds when the norovirus problem was at its most severe.

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, said: “In line with other hospitals in the West Midlands, we have seen a high number of patients visit A&E recently and our staff have done a wonderful job in treating them.

“We work hard to manage these numbers and we can confirm the department is working as normal and there are no major capacity issues.

“Our Trust sees high numbers of people, some of who are acutely ill, and need high priority treatment, and we work with our partners across the local health system to maintain safe patient care. This is something we constantly monitor very closely, with our teams working around the clock to ensure the hospitals keeps patients safe.

“We would like to remind people that their local pharmacy, GP surgery, or NHS111 are a good first point of contact for health advice and information and continue to urge patients to visit A&E only in an emergency.”

“We work very closely with West Midlands Ambulance Service to ensure that we always transfer patients as quickly as possible. West Midlands Ambulance Service has a Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officer based at University Hospital to make sure that there are no unnecessary delays.”

He said there has been a recent high demand for emergency care services, leading to higher than average waiting times.

“We have worked with our partners to improve performance over the last year, introducing a number of innovative approaches and as a result have seen consistent improvements each month since that time,” he added.

“This has led to a significant reduction in the time that ambulances are waiting on our site. We have now achieved our best handover performance times since October 2017.

“Our priority is always our patients, and we work together with all our health and social care partners to provide the best possible care.”

He said there has been a small number of patients with norovirus.

“Due to the quick and effective measures which we have put in place the impact of this was minimised and kept under control with the use of isolation area.

“Norovirus can be brought in to the hospital from the outside community and to help prevent any potential outbreaks of norovirus we want to remind visitors to regularly wash their hands and for anyone who is or has been ill with diarrhoea and/or vomiting to not visit the hospital until four days have passed with no further symptoms.”