By Ian Dipple Friday 28 September 2012 Updated: 28/09 09:51
SPARE beds in private care homes could be used to house patients if the county’s hospitals are unable to cope with a rise in emergency demand during the winter.
The move has been agreed by health bosses as a last resort as concern grows about the ability of both the Alexandra Hospital and Worcestershire Royal to cope with the traditional increase in demand for urgent and emergency care during the winter months, when both are already seeing record numbers come through the door.
Demand is currently 14.5 per cent higher than this time last year and since April the county's hospitals have dealt with an extra 2,450 patients.
Talks are ongoing with NHS Worcestershire and the county's Clinical Commissioning Groups about how to deal with the crisis long-term but it is feared with winter on its way, demand could rise to 20 per cent, stretching staff to breaking point.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has drawn up an action plan to tackle the problem which includes making up to 45 extra beds available between the Alex and Worcestershire Royal. About 20 additional beds will be provided through the community hospitals and if needed money has been set aside to provide between ten and 20 beds in private nursing homes.
The Trust is also recruiting extra nursing staff over and above required levels to help cope with the expected winter increase and avoid having to use expensive agency staff.
Stewart Messer, chief operating officer, said plans were being put in place to reduce admissions but he was not confident they would have the desired effect as both A&E departments were busy again during September.
"First and foremost for me is patient experience and patient safety, we can’t turn patients away," he said.
"We have to have our plan in place and as an Acute Trust we have a robust plan, but we need to see some impact on that 15 per cent."
The situation is also having a knock-on impact on the Trust’s finances with additional staff costs, the fact operations have had to be cancelled because of a lack of beds and they are only being paid 30 per cent of what they would normally receive as they have gone over an agreed threshold for the number of emergency patients dealt with.
So far £2.3million has been paid back to commissioners but the figure could rise to £5.5million by the end of the financial year.
Eamonn Kelly, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire, said an extra £10million had already been given to the Trust this year to support transition, £4million of which was for emergency care.
"Commissioning is now being led by local clinicians who are very actively involved in looking at ways we can, as much as possible, avoid people needing hospital care, so they are taking it very, very seriously."
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