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More hospital beds to tackle Staffordshire shortage

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Hardly any beds are free at two Staffordshire hospitals, prompting bosses to add more in a bid to ease pressures.

In the past five months, occupancy rates at Stafford's County Hospital and Royal Stoke Hospital have been between 97 and 100 per cent.

It means at times there are no spare beds across both hospitals.

Trust bosses have pledged to add another 56 more beds at Stoke to ease demand. But hospital campaigners say adding beds is not the answer.

The University Hospitals North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNMT), that took over the running of both hospitals in November, has been struggling to cope with pressures on beds across the trust.

New figures show that in January occupancy for general and acute wards was at 100 per cent forcing chiefs to declare a major incident. In February it was 97 per cent, March it was 99 per cent, April it was 97 per cent with an improvement of 92 per cent in May.

UHNMT chief executive Mark Hackett said: "In the coming weeks and months we will be opening an additional 56 beds at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, working with our health partners to get patients home from hospital as quickly as possible and thereby to free up more beds and ensuring that wherever it is possible and clinically safe to do so we treat patients in A&E and get them home rather than admitting them to hospital in the first place. I am confident these measures will have a positive impact."

The trust currently has 1,500 beds. When it took control of the County Hospital following the reorganisation of health services, 40 extra beds were installed there and 110 at Stoke. Mr Hackett said the staff at both sites had done much to alleviate the pressures in A&E at Stoke.

Former NHS activist Diana Smith, of Stafford, said: "Locally the whole emphasis in my view is about trying to ensure as much as possible is done in the community.

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"All of us need to work collectively to find how the service can work best for all of us. This whole business of health and social care working together is the way forward.

"It's no longer the right answer just to increase hospital beds."

The new UHNMT was founded last November under the re-organisation of health services that saw Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust disbanded and Stafford Hospital renamed County Hospital.

Earlier this month emergency pressures in the north of the county were exposed when a photograph of patients queuing up on trollies at Royal Stoke emerged.

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