HOSPITAL bosses have been forced to choose between treating patients in corridors or in the back of ambulances as they prepare for another shortage of beds this winter.

The struggles continue for already under-pressure NHS staff in Worcestershire ahead of a hectic winter with trust chiefs admitting it is already short of 45 beds.

As many as 20 people a night are waiting in A&E for beds that cannot be provided and the hospital trust is having to make 'risky' moves and decide between moving patients to corridors or keep them in a back of an ambulance for treatment.

The crisis in the county’s NHS has led to one call for the government to intervene and declare an emergency at Worcestershire’s hospitals.

Mari Gay, managing director of the new NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB), admitted the NHS was still in a “very challenging position” in Worcestershire and the system was still struggling with long ambulance handover delays, lack of space and staff shortages as well as rising Covid infections.

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The bleak story painted by the county’s health bosses led Cllr Richard Udall to ask why an emergency had not been declared during the meeting of the health overview and scrutiny committee in County Hall on Monday (October 17).

Hospital trust deputy chief executive Paul Brennan said a new 30-bed short-stay unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, which should have opened in February but did not open until July, had made “little to no impact” on tackling waiting times and handover delays.

Mr Brennan said moving patients into corridors did not “have the CQC’s blessing” but the health watchdog was aware the trust was “rebalancing the risk” against having to treat those same people in the back of an ambulance.

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The hospital trust said it has been ‘experimenting’ with the way it moves a number of patients around the hospital after the opening of the temporary ward, which did see the number of hours lost because of handover delays “plummet” from 800 to around 170 in the first week of the trial but shot straight back up to 800 again within the month.

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Mr Brennan said he expects the new ‘model’ to begin to bear fruit and cut delays when much-needed extra space opens up in the hospital’s refurbished Aconbury building in mid-November.

Nevertheless, the hospital is struggling for space with bosses saying that there are often 100 people in an A&E that was built for half that amount with around a fifth of those people in desperate need of a bed that the hospital cannot provide.

A bigger A&E is not expected to open at Worcestershire Royal Hospital until May next year.

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It is not much better at the region’s ambulance service either with one director admitting that long handover delays had been at “catastrophic” levels for 12 months and showing no signs of improving.

Some of the most ‘serious’ and at-risk patients, including those who have had strokes, are still having to wait almost two hours for an ambulance to arrive with many needing help after falls facing agonising waits of 12 hours or more.