By Ian Dipple Thursday 07 March 2013 Updated: 08/03 09:07
PATIENTS are being left queueing on trolleys in corridors at busy times as the county's A&E departments struggle to cope with growing demand.
Hospital bosses admitted it was not an unusual occurrence when there was a sudden 'spike' in the number of patients arriving at both the Alexandra Hospital and Worcestershire Royal by ambulance.
Demand for urgent and emergency care is still running at nine per cent higher than last year, putting increasing pressure on the system.
On average between five and six ambulances arrive at the county's A&E departments every hour but on one occasion recently in 90 minutes 18 were received at the Alexandra Hospital and 17 at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, overwhelming the service.
But Stewart Messer, chief operations officer, for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust insisted patient safety was not being compromised as those waiting on trolleys would still be assessed and anyone with a severe medical problem would be seen straight away with others moved into the department as soon as possible.
He said the alternative was to leave patients waiting in the back of an ambulance.
"If they remain in the back of an ambulance they will have dignity and privacy but we don't know if they're safe and we'd rather have them safe at the cost of compromising their privacy and dignity for short periods of time than the other way around," he said.
"We can have eight people on a trolley in a corridor or eight people in an ambulance sat outside waiting for an hour and if you look around that does happen at other Acute Trusts in the West Midlands."
The admission came during a debate at a board meeting last Wednesday (February 27) on the Trust's failure to hit the 95 per cent target for A&E waiting times which states patients should be seen, treated, admitted or discharged within four hours.
So far this year the target has been hit just under 84 per cent of the time.
Mr Messer said the four hour target was important but they would not put patients at risk just to hit it.
"When you've got 14 ambulances arriving in an hour and six the next hour and six the next it's about maintaining safety. I couldn't justifiably go into an A&E department and say you are not hitting the target because they would turn around and say, this is about keeping everybody safe including staff."
Bosses are working with West Midlands Ambulance Service to review why patients from Birmingham and Warwickshire are being taken to the county's A&E departments at times when they are under pressure, as well as analysing how people arrive at A&E and whether or not they are in the most appropriate place.
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