THIS photograph shows emergency patients crammed into trolleys in a hospital corridor as a winter beds crisis looms.

The picture, taken today (Wednesday) by an anonymous observer, suggests Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester is already under strain with the worst of winter still to come.

The Worcester News has blurred out the faces of patients to protect their identity and preserve their privacy and dignity.

Last month the chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Michelle McKay, pledged to stop the practise of caring for patients on trolleys at a meeting of the health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC) at County Hall in Worcester.

Winter tends to be the busiest time for hospitals as staff tackle a range of seasonal problems from falls leading to broken hips to infections and outbreaks of the so-called winter vomiting bug, Norovirus.

However, health chiefs say patients can take steps themselves to reduce pressure on A&E, choosing appropriate services and getting their flu jab with work already underway to improve the system of care.

As previously reported one patient died from a cardiac arrest after 35 hours waiting in a corridor at Worcestershire Royal Hospital last winter.

Another, who had an aneurysm, was taken into the resuscitation area but died.

A third death, reported to have been someone hanging themselves on a ward, also happened elsewhere in the hospital.

The three deaths took place between New Year’s Day and Tuesday, January 3 this year at the Worcester hospital which remains in special measures. The organisation is rated 'inadequate' by the health and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, which has ordered the trust to improve.

Cllr Paul Tuthill, chairman of HOSC, said: "There needs to be fundamental change at the acute trust which Michelle [McKay] has indicated."

He hopes the £29 million of Government investment can be drawn down as quickly as possible. Cllr Tuthill said that the committee had been encouraged by the words of Mrs McKay at the last meeting.

Some of that Government cash will be used to create a link bridge between the main Worcester hospital site and the Aconbury wing (an ambulance has to be used at the moment to convey patients). However, this is not likely to happen until next winter.

As previously reported some of this money will go towards 81 extra beds and 141 more parking spaces. The trust aims to have some of these beds available by next winter.

Cancer patient Nick Turner who spent 13 and a half hours on a trolley in a corridor at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in July suffering from sepsis says change is not happening fast enough.

He said the photo was all the more disturbing as he had been told by a senior nurse in another hospital that 'it did not have to be that way'.

The 54-year-old of Ombersley Road, Worcester, said: "We're being fed a lie that it is uniformly bad all over the country but Worcester hospital is on its own. I don't know what the hell they're going to do over the winter."

The solicitor said it was time for the management of Worcester hospital to stop being 'boneheaded' and take the 'stoppers out of their ears' and think of an urgent, creative solution.

Previously Mr Turner has suggested using bed and breakfasts, nursing homes and even army tents like those in the hit TV show M*A*S*H rather than than continue in the same fashion indefinitely.

However, the trust has already started a £920,000 overhaul of Worcester's A&E to better manage the high volume of patients.

Instead of the current ambulatory emergency care, which has just two chairs for patients, the trust will have a bigger unit with six assessment trolleys and 10 chairs, providing a consultant-led service, allowing decisions about the treatment each patient needs to be taken more quickly.

A spokesperson for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said:

“We recognise that we still have challenges around patient flow and the impact this has on crowding in our emergency department.

“Over the past few months we have been working hard on improving patient flow through our Worcester site.

“We have already started to see some improvements, including periods in the last few days where we have successfully kept the corridor clear. However, we recognise there is more to do."

Other steps we are taking in the near future include an expanded GP home visiting service for those patients who are really unwell.

Patients who have had a fall but haven’t suffered any obvious broken bones will be taken to Minor Injuries Units rather than A&E.