Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Vomiting hell - "hospitals can't cope"
HEALTH chiefs say they cannot cope with another winter like this one after a ‘virulent’ vomiting bug caused havoc in hospital wards.
The full impact of the winter diarrhoea and vomiting bug norovirus on county hospitals was laid bare at a meeting of NHS chiefs at Southcrest Manor Hotel in Redditch on Wednesday.
Harry Turner, chairman of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “It’s clear we can’t go through this again next winter.”
Deputy chief executive Chris Tidman said: “Norovirus is much earlier in its arrival and is a more virulent strain.”
At the height of the outbreak in November 166 beds were closed across the trust which manages Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester, the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and Kidderminster Hospital. Of these 166 beds, 40 were empty because the highly infectious bug meant no new patients could be transferred to any wards where patients had the symptoms.
Patients on these wards also could not be sent home or into nursing homes or community hospitals in Malvern, Pershore, Evesham, Tenbury and Bromsgrove because of the risk of spreading the infection. This created ‘frozen’ wards preventing existing patients being discharged or new ones being admitted. This in turn heaped pressure on A&E departments, making it more difficult to transfer patients to these blocked beds.
This pressure has meant that patients have been waiting longer in A&E. At least 95 per cent of patients are supposed to be seen, treated or discharged within four hours of coming to the hospital but the trust has failed the target in November (94.3 per cent) and December (91.76 per cent) and looks set to fail the target for a third month in a row with a figure of 91.53 per cent so far in January (as of January 13).
At the peak of norovirus infection seven wards were closed - four at Worcester and three at Redditch.
However, despite the extra demand (10 per cent above this time last year) the trust has hit many of its other key targets, including the 18 week GP referral to treatment targets for both admitted and non-admitted patients.
Chief operating officer Stewart Messer said: “To still hit our 18 week cancer and stroke targets was absolutely outstanding during that sort of pressure.”
In December, for example, 93.19 of patients referred to their GP were seen within 18 weeks of that referral (above the minimum 90 per cent). The trust also hit all of its key stroke targets with 80 per cent of patients spending 90 per cent of their time on a dedicated stroke ward in December (spot on the target of 80 per cent).
All cancer targets were also achieved bar the 62 day wait for treatment from urgent GP referral (84.82 per cent, just below the 85 per cent target).
Mr Messer said that while targets were important to ‘sharpen our minds’ the primary concern was ‘quality and patient safety’.
* Worcestershire Royal, the Alexandra Hospital and Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre are closed to visitors to protect patients and visitors from norovirus.
Exceptional visiting can be arranged by prior agreement with the ward manager. Please contact the ward directly for information.