Bed shortage prompts 'major incident' at Royal Cornwall Hospital
A “major incident” was declared at Cornwall’s biggest hospital as bed shortages reached crisis level.
The Royal Cornwall Hospital had to cancel more than a dozen operations on Monday because it had more than 50 patients they were unable to discharge.
The crisis sparked a fierce war of words between the hospital, Cornwall Council, the local MP and other healthcare providers.
The hospital trust’s chief executive said the blockage was caused by a “lack of community health and social care support”.
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Sarah Newton MP described the situation as “dreadful” and said it highlighted a “lack of joined working” between the NHS and Cornwall Council.
The lack of communication was apparent when Cornwall Council’s head of adult care told the West Briton her department had not been made aware of the crisis at RCHT, despite the major incident being declared at approximately 5pm on Monday.
The situation is thought to be particularly worrying as it is expected to worsen going into winter.
Lezli Boswell, chief executive of Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, said yesterday: “RCHT currently has over 50 patients who are medically fit to leave the hospital but we are unable to discharge due to lack of community health and social care support. It is this ongoing and unacceptable situation that has led us again to regrettably cancel planned operations.”
RCHT said it had to cancel 14 operations.
Mrs Boswell apologised to patients and acknowledged how frustrating the situation was for staff.
She said: "We consider the need to cancel any operation at short notice unacceptable and we are working with NHS Kernow, Peninsula Community Health and Cornwall Council to ensure we provide the services the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have a right to expect."
Peninsula Community Health said it was committed to patient safety but refused to comment further on the crisis.
Mrs Newton said: “This situation highlights a lack of joined working between our local NHS and Cornwall Council’s social care services.”
The MP said Cornwall Council will benefit from nearly £10million to help integration with the NHS as the two organisations are expected to work more closely together.
Mrs Newton said: “Cornwall Council has the ability to realise the new opportunities to deliver joined up health and social care services, based around the patient. Now is the time for the chief executive and leader of Cornwall Council to get round the table with the leaders of our local NHS and sort out this dreadful situation.”
Kim Carey, corporate director of adult care and support at Cornwall Council said the council was only responsible for social care clients and said none of the delays were due to people waiting for social care provision.
Mrs Carey said: “Unfortunately in this case we were not alerted to any escalating problems by RCHT and, once this current crisis has been resolved, will be seeking to work with the hospital to investigate why this did not take place.”
A spokesman for RCHT, however, has maintained that this was not the case. The spokesman said: “The idea that Cornwall Council did not know is not credible. It was clear the pressure we were under.”