STAFF at the county’s A&E departments are facing burnout as they continue to struggle with record numbers of patients seeking treatment.
Stewart Messer, chief operating officer for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, called the situation ‘pretty grim’ as a combination of a surge in the number of people pouring into the county’s hospitals and delays moving them out of beds has led to unprecedented pressure on the system.
“It is fair to say the staff are working under immense pressure and they are doing a fantastic job, some of the compliments we are getting from patients, even those that have been held in the corridor, have been outstanding,” he told the Standard.
“But inevitably we are starting to see sickness levels creep up because people are exhausted. There’s an awful lot of goodwill being exploited and a number of staff have cancelled their own annual leave to help out their colleagues.”
Between April and December the Trust has dealt with an additional 15,000 patients through A&E compared with the same period last year, a rise of 15 per cent overall.
During October and December, traditionally busy months because of colder weather, 4,167 people waited more than four hours to be treated in A&E, almost double the number during the same period in 2013.
The pressure has continued into the new year with 2,918 additional patients treated within the first week of January compared with last year, prompting the Trust to declare a level four escalation, effectively warning the wider system they are out of beds and unable to free up space.
Part of the rise in demand is being driven by flu with some 20 wards across both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals containing patients with the virus.
However another key issue is capacity as there aren’t enough beds within nursing or community hospitals to move patients into when they no longer require acute hospital care because of delays connected to social care.
During October and November 3,909 bed days were lost due to delayed transfer of patients, more than the whole of the last three months of 2013 combined.
Domiciliary care nurses, who look after people in their own homes, are also at full stretch.
Efforts are being made to resolve the situation including building extra A&E bays at the Worcestershire Royal. But Mr Messer said he did not expect the situation to be resolved until the end of February or March.
Residents with non life-threatening conditions are being urged to stay away from A&E and seek advice from NHS 111, a GP or pharmacist.