High bed occupancy in Morecambe Bay hospitals 'compromising patient care'

The number of beds in use within Morecambe Bay hospitals is currently above the level at which patient care is thought to be compromised.

Friday, 7th January 2022, 3:38 pm

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) announced on Tuesday that is was declaring a critical incident within itsa hospitals, canelling non-urgent operations in a bid to deal with rising staff absences and escalating Covid issues.

The move came just days after the trust cancelled all visits to its sites due to rising cases of Covid-19.

Within the trust's hospitals, occupancy levels in general and acute beds remain too high - as is the case across the country.

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The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

General and acute beds are for people admitted from A&E, by their GP, or who are recovering post surgery. It excludes beds in intensive care, maternity, and mental health wards.

Hospitals are considered to be too busy if more than 85 per cent of their available general and acute beds are occupied by patients. After this, patient care is thought to be compromised.

At UHMBT in the week leading up to January 2, the figure was 92.8 per cent, dropping slightly from a peak of 95.9 per cent four weeks earlier. The latest England figure is 89.7 per cent.

Within UHMBT, 539 of the 576 available general and acute beds were occupied on January 2.

However, the average number of critical care bed occupancy has dropped with UHMBT to 61.61 per cent for the week up to January 2, down from a peak of 90.99 per cent a month earlier.

Seven of the 16 available critical care beds were in use on January 2.

Issues on the wards are being exacerbated by the number of staff off sick, many with Covid.

Nationally, NHS staff absence levels have seen their highest weekly rise yet, rising by 13 per cent in a week. On average some 80,295 staff were off sick each day in the week to January 2, of which 35,596 were due to Covid.

At UHMBT, an average of 357 members of staff were off sick each day in the week up to January 2, a drop of 10.11 per cent on the previous week.

Of these, 24.7 per cent (121 per day) were due to Covid.

Recent weeks hit a peak leading up to December 19, when an average of 541 were off sick each day - 107 due to Covid.

Ambulances have also been plagued with problems, with 26.7 per cent of handovers delayed more than 30 minutes in the week up to January 2 - more than double the previous week.

NHS national medical director Prof Stephen Powis said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them. In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to Covid.

“While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have it’s clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard working staff.

“Those staff are stepping up as they always do; answering a quarter more 111 calls last week than the week before, dealing with an increasing number of ambulance call outs, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.

“You can help us to help you by ensuring you are vaccinated against Covid.

“And as has been the case throughout the pandemic, if you have a health problem, please go to 111 online and call 999 when it is a life threatening condition – the NHS is here for you.”