Bed-blocking hits record high in Cornwall hospitals

The number of people who were stuck in hospital in Cornwall despite being fit enough to leave hit a record high of 243 last week. The figure is included in a new report detailing how bed blocking is affecting efforts to reduce the number of people awaiting surgery and treatment in Cornwall.

Richard Whitehouse www.cornwalllive.com 

Details of the latest figures are included in a report going to Cornwall Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee next week giving an update on plans to cut the number of people waiting for surgery. Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) says that by the end of this month there should no longer be anyone in Cornwall waiting for more than two years for treatment and it is working to cut the number of people waiting 18 months to zero by March 2023.

However too many beds are being blocked from new patients at the county’s hospitals. This includes those run by RCHT – Treliske at Truro, West Cornwall Hospital at Penzance and St Michael’s Hospital at Hayle – as well as the community hospitals run by Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (CPFT).

However in order to help reduce the number of people waiting for treatment the hospital trust needs to close a bed deficit of 79 by cutting the number of people who are stuck in hospital despite being ready for discharge. Those patients are waiting for care at home, require a rehabilitation bed at a community hospital or require a care home bed.

The report states: “On Thursday 14 July, 2022, it was reported that across CPFT and RCHT there were 243 patients who required care in another setting which is the highest number ever known in the Cornwall Health and Social Care system.” To try to cut the number of people waiting for surgery the trust is also increasing overall operating capacity by using a range of options to provide Saturday and Sunday operating. There are also plans to increase bed capacity at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

In a separate report going to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee hospital bosses provide an update on the operational pressures currently being faced by the NHS in Cornwall which are also linked with the number of people waiting to be discharged from hospital.

This report states: “Over the last two years the number of acute hospital beds occupied by patients who are waiting for social care or other community support almost doubled since 2019/20 and this has resulted in over 100 of Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust acute hospital beds are now not available for our emergency patients as they are occupied by people who have completed their acute hospital care and are waiting for some form of social or community care before they can be discharged.”

It also explains that category two ambulance response times – which have a target of 18 minutes – were more than two hours at the end of June. However in March they peaked at 230 minutes on average. The number of people waiting on trolleys in the emergency department has also increased significantly with 767 waiting for more than 12 hours to be transferred out of the department in March. At the end of June it had dropped to 615.

However the report notes that RCHT is one of six trusts which account for 34 per cent of all national 12-hour trolley waits. The report states: “It remains the highest priority of Trust board to continue to focus on internal improvements and to work collaboratively to resolve external factors and see step change improvements with our health and care partners.

“Unless all parts of our health and care system do everything possible to support the discharge of patients that no longer need to be in hospital so that we can provide the timely access to our essential emergency hospital services our mortality position won’t significantly change and harm will continue to occur.

“We see this issue as the greatest priority for our health and care Integrated Care Board which will be established on 1 July 2022 and look forward to working with our health and care partners to urgently progress these challenges.”