Fifty new beds will be opened up across Sandwell and City Hospitals in a bid to cope with patient numbers during the winter, it has been revealed.
Doors will also be fitted to all ward bay doors at Sandwell Hospital to prevent the spread of infection which crippled the hospital last year.
It comes after the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust revealed last month that 75 new qualified nurses and 52 health care assistants will be recruited to help them cope during the winter months.
Bosses at the trust, which also runs Rowley Regis hospital, say they are bringing in the new measures after identifying the problems last winter.
A report to Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group states that the problems they faced included staffing, bed capacity closures due to infection control while the hospitals also found it difficult to cope with reduced capacity over the winter period.
The report states in the first quarter of the year they increased bed capacity from 408 to 454 and that will be further increased to 494 by the end of this month. Those beds are expected to remain open for the remainder of the financial year.
In addition to these measures, doors are being put on bays at Sandwell Hospital, which is located in All Saints Way, West Bromwich, to decrease the impact of ward closures due to infection.
The trust is also planning to have GPs cover two new medically fit for discharge wards, in order to release hospital staff back to other duties. These wards have been opened at City Hospital in Birmingham and Rowley Regis Hospital, and provide focussed care for patients who no longer need to be on a general ward.
Accountable officer at Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG Andy Williams said in a report to the group: “There is no question we are better placed to deliver than we were in 2012. We are not yet where we need to be in every single respect, but we are getting there.
In December last year a total of five wards at Sandwell Hospital and three wards at Birmingham’s City Hospital were closed due to winter vomiting bug norovirus.
The hospitals have also faced delays in the transfer of care from one agency to another because staff were not working seven days a week. It meant that some patients could not be discharged at weekends.
Clinical Commissioning Group bosses say that work has now started with local authorities to establish working arrangements to enable people to be discharged promptly.