Winter was ‘utter bedlam’ for hospital staff

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HOSPITAL staff have been praised as they helped tackle “utter bedlam” during the winter months.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has said its departments were put under huge pressure in the run-up to and aftermath of Christmas.

While queues of ambulances experienced elsewhere around the country were not seen at its doors, its A&E department experienced “unprecedented activity” throughout the winter months, when admissions were almost seven per cent greater than the same time last year.

While it has said the increase in the number of people it treated was not massive, it said the kinds of cases being seen were also more complex.

The number of attendances between November and March in 2013/14 compared to 2014/15 was up from 35,512 to 35,989 and admissions up from 7,046 and 7,520.

Figures also show the number of those who waited for more than four hours to be seen also increased from 1,412 to 2,084.

Only Northumbria’s trust across the region had higher levels of waiting out of the North East’s eight trusts.

At a meeting of the trust’s board, chairman Paul Garvin said: “Since before Christmas it’s appeared to be utter bedlam.

“It’s definitely been a chase of all hands to the pumps.

“There’s been a huge effort not just from doctors and nurses but the domestics, porters and admin staff ,who have been working on wards, and the senior management team have kept the system from falling through.

“It’s been a remarkable achievement. I would like to place my thanks on record for their valiant efforts.”

A report to the meeting said: “Whilst the trust is well rehersed in planning for winter and surge, needless to say each year is different, bringing with it individual and unexpected challenges from which the trust reflects and plans for the future.”

It says while there has been a rise of people visiting its A&E, the increase in the four-hour waiting time breaches is down to several pressures on the system.

It has said waiting times to see a consultant in the department is an issue on occasions, the intensity of conditions on wards, increased length of stays, high occupancy levels and delayed discharges also played a part.

It also sets out how it has focused on patient safety, quality and experience, but that the response has placed “immense pressure on operational and financial and performance”.

It has said measures were in place to address additional expenditure in resources.

A total of 43 elective operations had to be cancelled during the period due to winter pressures since the end of December.

The trust said it reviewed the cases on a weekly and daily basis to decide how urgent their surgery was, with patients only identified as potential candidates for cancellation if there would be no long-term detriment to their condition or recovery.

Delayed discharges averaged 14 a day.