Hospitals face ‘unprecedented pressure’ as winter spike demands 100 extra beds

North Tees Hospital
North Tees Hospital

HOSPITAL bosses say they are facing “unprecedented pressure” this winter and at one point needed 100 extra beds to cope with demand.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has seen a surge in people attending accident and emergency and being admitted to hospital.

In December, A&E attendances were up 4.6 per cent compared to the same time the previous year.

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And for this month it jumped to around an eight per cent spike.

The demand has contributed to the trust being more than £2.4million over budget for the year as it pays for more staff and beds.

The trust, which runs the university hospitals of Hartlepool and North Tees, in Stockton, had lined up 18 extra beds when it planned for this winter.

But hospital bosses had to increase that to 100 in the first week of January.

The trust says a rise in the number of frail and elderly people needing treatment has been the main cause for the pressure, which has also been seen nationally.

Trust chief executive Alan Foster said at a board meeting yesterday: “It is unprecedented, certainly in my time, the pressure we have been under.

“We have had Christmas, New Year and most of January and now severe winter weather.

“Despite all that we have been able to maintain excellent performance.”

Trust chairman Paul Garvin added: “Certainly it has been all hands to the pump.

“Although we missed the accident and emergency four hour wait target we only just missed it and by less than anyone else.

“It has been a real success story based on real hard graft from top to bottom to manage patient flow and meet the demand.”

The trust overspent by £1million in December. Finance director Lynne Hodgson said: “It just reflects the pressure the organisation has been under to cover services.

“There are no issues with patient safety, but it is having a significant impact on our budget at the moment.”

Mr Foster was critical of the way the extra government funding to help ease winter pressure has been awarded this year.

He said the trust was still waiting to receive some of it and added it should have been directed towards reducing hospital admissions instead of to GPs and other primary care providers.

The trust is using some of its cash reserves to manage the deficit.

Mr Foster added: “I think we’ve made the right decision by putting patients first, but the position isn’t sustainable.”