HOSPITALS did all they could to cope with the pressures of winter and it is others who need to get their act together to help, says an NHS chief.

Stewart Messer, chief operating officer at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said bosses did all they could to prepare for winter, the busiest time for acute hospitals, but others in the wider community needed to act sooner.

He said the hospitals trust had a winter plan signed off in July but there was no ‘health economy’ wide plan for dealing with the extra pressures of winter signed off until November ‘which is very late’.

He said: “Our winter plan has been fully tested and has proven to be successful. We have gone over and above what was agreed to make our sites (hospitals) safe. We have done everything we can.”

Winter plans included opening 28 beds at Highfield ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester, which remain open at the moment to cope with the influx of patients.

Other schemes pursued by the NHS included a GPs with ambulance scheme which involves doctors riding ‘shotgun’ with ambulance crews to treat patients to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, easing pressure on the wards.

In total, 27 doctors have been involved in this scheme which was devised by Dr Jonathan Leach, a Bromsgrove GP and medical director of NHS Worcestershire. Mr Messer has also hired the use of the latest technology to tackle the more virulent strain of the winter diarrhoea and vomiting bug, norovirus. Hydrogen peroxide vapour has been used to clean bays. The vapour, which covers rooms in a ‘mist’ or ‘fog’, kills all bugs, including MRSA, clostridium difficile and norovirus.

He said of the HPA vapour: “The outbreak of norovirus in November lasted 14 days. We would normally expect it to last 21 days.”

A further outbreak was declared at the end of November which ended on December 15. Mr Messer said there had been an increase in the number of patients at A&E after suffering falls, respiratory problems, cardiac arrests and strokes. Some of the falls had been caused by the snow and ice.