How is Dorset County Hospital coping with the winter pressure?

How is Dorset County Hospital coping with the winter pressure?

Published by George Sharpe at 8:59am 10th January 2020. (Updated at 11:29am 10th January 2020)

An average of just 15 beds were available last week

As the colder weather takes its toll on the health of the nation, we have looked into how well Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is coping with winter pressures.

During winter, NHS England publishes weekly reports which give insight into how well hospital trusts are managing – looking at ambulance delays, bed occupancy and long stays in hospitals.

How did Dorset County Hospital Trust handle the week from December 30 to January 5?

Radar NHS Photo

Ambulance waits

Last week, 285 patients were brought by ambulance to A&E at the trust. The busiest day was Sunday, when 50 patients arrived.

Over the week, eight arrivals waited 30 minutes or more to be transferred to the emergency department – despite NHS guidelines saying all patients should be transferred within 15 minutes.

Of these, one patient waited an hour or longer.

The number of people arriving by ambulance last week was a significant increase on the previous seven days, when 195 were recorded.

Hospital Bed

Bed availability

General and acute wards at the trust were 95.3% full on average last week – significantly above the 85% rate the British Medical Association suggests should not be exceeded to ensure safe patient care.

The occupancy rate was higher than the 88.1% recorded the previous week.

Above 92%, NHS Improvement says that deterioration in A&E performance begins to accelerate.

Dorset County Hospital Trust was more than 92% full on six days last week, and more than 85% full every day.

On average, the trust had 313 beds available to use each day last week, including 32 escalation beds, which are used in emergencies and periods of high demand. Just 15 beds were free on an average day.

Long-stay patients

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, hospital staff are being encouraged to reduce lengthy hospital stays for patients recovering from an operation or illness. NHS England says the move is aimed at improving care options and freeing up 7,000 beds nationally – the equivalent of 15 large hospitals.

Hospital bed

On Sunday, 141 patients had been in hospital for seven days or more at Dorset County Hospital Trust. They accounted for 46% of all beds occupied.

Occupying 16% of beds, 50 patients had been in hospital for three weeks or longer.

A spokesperson for Dorset County Hospital said:

"Like hospitals throughout the country we have experienced significant increases in referrals and emergency admissions so our services are under a lot of pressure.

"Our staff are working extremely hard to see patients as quickly as possible and our priority remains providing safe, high quality care."

Commenting on the situation across the country's hospitals, NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said:

“A&Es across the country are currently very busy – in 2019 we treated over a million more patients in our A&Es than the previous year.

“We have got more hospital beds open than last winter, but flu has come early and is around twice as high as this time last year.

“For the public there is still time to get your flu jab, and remember to use the free NHS 111 phone and online service and your local pharmacist.

“The continued increase in people’s need for care underlines the need for more beds and staff across hospital and community services, which is why the Government’s commitment to increase the number of nurses by 50,000 and invest in new and expanded facilities will be crucial over the coming years.”