Hospitals in Shropshire creaking under pressure as handover delays 'double in a year'
Shrposhire health leaders have asked for the help of relatives to get patients out of hospital as soon as possible, as figures show emergency handover delays have doubled in a year.
The county's acute hospitals continue to be under "extreme pressure" but bosses at Royal Shrewsbury and Telford's Princess Royal say more beds are on the way in the new year to help them cope with added winter pressures.
Retired doctor and Shrewsbury councillor Bernie Bentick has been delving into data on delays and has found that they doubled between November 2022 and 2023, from 68 hours per week to 134 hours per week, putting the system in second worst position in England.
Heath leaders have not challenged Councillor Bentick's findings that on October 31, this year there were 160 patients still in hospital waiting for discharge, or one in five all acute beds, compared with 142 on the same date a year earlier.
Councillor Bentick says the figures are shocking and show a "marked deterioration" in the situation.
He said: “These figures are shocking and show marked deterioration in Shropshire’s hospitals’ ability to transfer emergency patients to the clinical areas where they will receive care suitable for their conditions.
"When will we see improvements in these figures, after the recent large cash injection? It’s time Shropshire’s Health System was measured by results and not just activity.”
Councillor Bentick said that nationally it is estimated that there are up to 500 avoidable deaths per week due to delays in emergency services, equivalent to five per week in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.
Health leaders in the county say that there are significant and sustained demands across the health system. Previously this has included problems in finding places in care and support for people who are waiting to leave hospital.
Dr Nick White, chief medical officer at NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said they are working with their partners to get people discharged to free up beds as quickly as possible. The situation has lead to long delays, including for Pauline Dee, a former Wem councillor who was left waiting for 25 hours from the time she phoned 999 to when hospital staff finally found her a bed.
Dr White apologised for long waits but they have to put those with the most critical needs first.
He said: “We are sorry that patients are facing long waits as we continue to prioritise those with the most critical needs.
"Our hospitals continue to be under extreme pressure due to significant and sustained demand across the system.
“We are working with all our partners to ensure that our communities can access the services they need in the right place and enable patients in hospital to be discharged as quickly as possible which will reduce waits for ambulances and those needing to be admitted."
Dr White added that if people have a loved one or family member in hospital they can help get them home as soon as they are well enough.
He said: "We would also like to impress the importance that if you have a loved one or family member in hospital, please help us get them home as soon as they are well enough to leave our care."
More help is on the way to help the hospitals cope with expected winter pressures from flu and accidents.
“£21.4 million of funding has been allocated to the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), to be used to create additional winter bed capacity and will be delivered in partnership with Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust," said Dr White.
“During the meeting of the Integrated Care Board last week, both trusts provided assurance that 46 beds will be fully operational from January 2024, with additional beds coming on stream later in the year.”
A reconfiguration of the Same Day Emergency Centre (SDEC) at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) builds on the new Acute Assessment Floor at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) which opened in December 2022, which supports patients to be seen in the right place at the right time, with the majority of patients avoiding the Emergency Department (ED).
Ambulance Receiving Areas (ARAs) have been introduced at both hospitals. This helps to free up ambulances to respond to new emergency calls.