HOSPITAL and Social Services chiefs have admitted they are under renewed strain over bed-blockers, amid calls for Government intervention.

Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff has demanded Ministers throw Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust a lifeline.

He said 69 people currently occupied beds that should be only for acute cases.

"This is having serious consequences for the management of emergency admissions to both the Worcester and Redditch sites," warned Mr Luff in a letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn.

He blamed Government under-funding of Worcestershire's social services department, already struggling to cope with "mismanagement".

Mr Luff claimed Worcestershire County Council lacked the resources to pay for placements in nursing homes.

"This is an intolerable situation and one that could cost lives," he said, calling for "urgent assistance".

Pat Archer-Jones, the chief executive of Worcestershire Health Authority, admitted a "significant rise in the level of emergency admissions this week has placed a strain on our hospitals".

"This comes at a time when nine or 10 per cent of our beds are occupied by patients who could be cared for more appropriately at a community hospital, nursing home or at home," she added.

"Unfortunately this week has seen a build-up of patients awaiting discharge.

"Sickness absence of hospital-based social workers has delayed some assessments, but this is being speedily addressed."

Coun Peter Pinfield, the county councillor responsible for overseeing social services, blamed a crop of people with respiratory problems, saying the damp weather had led to the increase.

"Actually the number of so-called 'bed-blockers' reached 85 this week," he said.

"Although the numbers have increased, we're meeting our agreed target of 10 places a week and so is the health authority. Thirty patients were transferred this week, for example."

Coun Pinfield said he was "never one to turn down extra money", but criticised Mr Luff for claiming the county faced a crisis.

"The situation is under control and we need care, not scare," the councillor added.

Last month, members of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust were told the bed-blocking situation in the county had deteriorated since Christmas, with the figure rising from 19 to 57 by February 14.