Hospitals across Warwickshire had to temporarily send ambulances to other A&Es nine times last week as winter pressures on the NHS continued.
A&Es run by South Warwickshire NHS Trust , which operates Warwick Hospital – agreed to temporarily divert patients to other A&E departments to relieve pressure eight times in the week ending January 20.A
George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust was also forced to divert ambulances away from its emergency department.
Latest figures show that 98 per cent of general beds at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire were occupied over the week, as were 96.8 per cent at South Warwickshire, and 94.7 per cent at George Eliot Hospital.
Health experts advise that occupancy levels should ideally be under 85 per cent.
Anything over this level is regarded as riskier for patients as this leads to bed shortages, periodic bed crises, and a rise in healthcare-acquired infections such as MRSA.
A spokesman for the George Eliot Trust said: “During times of extreme pressure on our services we very occasionally request that a certain number of ambulances are diverted to nearby hospitals for a defined period of time when it is safe to do so.
“This is done in partnership with the wider health system and is part of our commitment to keep patients safe and maintain high quality care.”
Although some ambulances were diverted elsewhere none of the hospitals closed their A&E departments.
Visitors ‘should wash hands’
A spokesperson for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS said: “We had recently seen a very small number of patients with norovirus at University Hospital but 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 an 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.
“In terms of capacity, 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.”
Is the NHS in crisis?
0+ VOTES SO FAR
12 patients with norovirus symptoms
A study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal found that reducing bed occupancy to 90 per cent or less led to a drop in death rates and an improvement in waiting time performance in A&E.
At University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, 85.5 per cent of critical care beds were occupied over the week ending January 20.
The Royal College of Anaesthetists’ says persistent critical care bed occupancy of more than 70 per cent suggests that a unit is too small, and occupancy of 80 per cent or more is likely to result in non-clinical transfers that carry associated risks.
As of January 20, there were 12 bed closures reported at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire because of norovirus-type symptoms.
Demand on NHS resources in Coventry and Warwickshire means dozens of ambulances a day are having to wait before off-loading patients into A&E.
Trusts across the area saw 242 ambulances wait more than 30 minutes to handover patients over the week ending January 20, with 18 waiting more than an hour, according to the NHS England figures.
The target is for handovers to take under 15 minutes.
At South Warwickshire, more than a fifth of ambulances arriving in the last week (23 per cent) had to wait more than 30 minutes to handover, a total of 73 ambulances.
Across England, A&E’s agreed to temporarily divert patients to other A&E departments to relieve pressure 35 times in the week ending January 20, including eight times on Wednesday January 16th.
The number of diversions was down from 38 recorded the week before, and compares to 20 in the same week in 2018.
Figures out this morning show that 94.6 per cent of general beds in hospitals across England were occupied over the week, which compares to a 94.8 per cent occupancy rate in the same week last year.
Across England, 85.2 per cent of adult critical care beds were occupied last week, the same as the week before.
The occupancy rate for paediatric intensive care bed was up from 79.1 per cent to 81.2 per cent, while occupancy in neonatal intensive care beds was up from 70.5 per cent to 70.7 per cent.
Trusts across the country saw 11,382 ambulances wait more than 30 minutes to handover patients over the week ending January 20.
This is the equivalent of one in nine ambulances arriving at A&Es last week having to wait more than half an hour to handover their patient.
The numbers include 2,329 ambulances that had to wait more than an hour.
An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS continues to perform well thanks to the hard work of its staff, with fewer delayed ambulance handovers and hospitals supporting more patients to return home quicker, and with cold weather alerts in place, the public have an important role to play in doing what they can to stay well and making use of health services wisely.
“This means using the free NHS 111 phone line – or the new online service – to receive advice on symptoms, and where to go for treatment.”