Peterborough Hospital Bed Shortage Again

cuts17:22 Monday 11th March 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: Ten planned operations have been cancelled today at Peterborough City Hospital. 24 planned operations have been cancelled for tomorrow. It’s after Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust declared a major internal incident and a shortage of available beds. The Trust says there’s still an unusually higher than usual number of people being admitted via A&E, and people are being admitted needing treatment for longer. It’s not the first time the Hospital has faced a shortage of this kind. Chris Wilkinson is Director of Care Quality and Chief Nurse at Peterborough City Hospital, and joins us now .. I spoke to someone I think just a couple of weeks ago, and again in January about a similar situation. Just explain what’s going on please.
CHRIS WILKINSON: Yes, we’re seeing very high levels of sick patients and it’s built up over a period of time, in the same way that it did when you spoke to my colleague earlier last month. And what we see is that the buildup of these patients, and they’re very sick and stay in for longer, and that means that we then experience pressure on the capacity within the Hospital to care for the next patients that come through the Emergency Department.
CHRIS MANN: So if you can’t take all the patients that need hospital treatment, where are they going?
CHRIS WILKINSON: Well, we’re working very hard with all our partners to make sure that we can continue to care for the patients in the right place, and so during the course of today we’ve worked extremely hard with our colleagues out in the community, both in terms of care in nursing homes, residential homes, but also in patients’ own homes, and with additional support from therapists and nurses in their own homes, so that we can strive to make sure that patients are being cared for in the right place for their needs.
CHRIS MANN: I’m sure you’re doing your best Chris, but the Hospital surely is the best place. A nursing home or somebody’s home isn’t always as good a place as a hospital, surely, by definition.
CHRIS WILKINSON: We do find that some patients, when they’re ready to not need care in the hospital, we can sometimes experience a bit of delay for them to get to their next placement. We will only be transferring or discharging patients when it’s safe to do so.
CHRIS MANN: And what’s happening within the Hospital? You say there;s planned operations have been cancelled. What kind of operations are those?
CHRIS WILKINSON: The operations that have been cancelled are what we would call non-life threatening, and so the surgery that has continued today and will continue tomorrow would be anything where patients would really be at risk if they didn’t get their surgery as soon as possible. And we’re extremely sorry. I absolutely understand the implications for patients when they do have surgery cancelled, but we need to make sure that we’ve got the beds available for the urgently sick patients who are coming through the Emergency Department.
CHRIS MANN: This has been going on for some weeks. When’s it going to end?
CHRIS WILKINSON: That’s a really good question, and not one that I can answer. It will end as soon as we can make it end, in bringing all the solutions together and it being safe for patients to be elsewhere. But clearly as long as patients are in need of urgent care and being admitted as emergencies, we will continue to face the pressures. But I know that we’re working really hard with our partners around the health care economy. This is something .. there are pressures being experienced outside the Hospital as well, so it’s a whole health care economy issue. But the thing that patients could help us with would be to think carefully about what they’re thinking about coming to Emergency Department with. Really consider whether it is urgent, or if they could actually look elsewhere for their help, so either with their GP or at the Walk In Centre or indeed with community pharmacists sometimes.
CHRIS MANN: Is your suggestion here that sometimes people are coming to hospital when they don’t need to?
CHRIS WILKINSON: My suggestion is that sometimes patients will come to the Emergency Department who aren’t as sick as others, and whilst they may feel that it’s the right place for them, there might be alternative placements. And also, if they do come to the Emergency Department when it’s as busy as it is currently, they may face quite long delays, where they could be seen more quickly and as efficiently elsewhere.
CHRIS MANN: Are you sure you’re going to be able to cope in the future Chris?
CHRIS WILKINSON: We’re working very hard to make sure that it’s right for our patients. Patient safety is absolutely our first priority, and we’ll do our very best to make sure that it is right.
CHRIS MANN: Forgive me, but that wasn’t a yes.
CHRIS WILKINSON: It’s a very difficult answer to give, yes, isn’t it? Because obviously ..
CHRIS MANN: Well it’s easy if the answer is yes.
CHRIS WILKINSON: It would depend on how many patients are requiring care and how well we manage to deal with the pressures. But we I can absolutely say yes, we are doing absolutely everything we can to make it safe and efficient for our patients.
CHRIS MANN: Chris, thank you. We’ll let you get back to your important job there. Chris Wilkinson, Director of Care Quality and Chief Nurse at Peterborough City Hospital.