Cornish healthcare system nearly brought to knees by crisis
An emergency summit has been called in a desperate bid to stop another crisis which campaigners say was scarily close to bringing Cornwall’s healthcare system to its knees.
Earlier this month, dozens of operations were cancelled at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust(RCHT) as it struggled to cope with record levels of so called bed blocking choking the system.
Meanwhile it has been revealed that on the day the situation came to a head, six ambulances were queuing outside the Truro hospital at one point while handover delays totted up to a shocking 15 hours.
A report just published by Cornwall Council admits the system “appears to be so fragile” that a small number of extra people delayed “has a material impact.”
With winter looming and bed pressures expected to escalate, the authority’s health and social care authority’s overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) will next week bring all the players round the table to prevent a reoccurrence.
Graham Webster, vice chairman of the campaign group Health Initiative Cornwall, said action must be taken for a stark reason.
“The system as it stands is failing patients,” he said.
“The fact is that we cannot continue like this.
“The system is at breaking point, not just the RCHT but across the board.
“At the moment, the system is at full capacity and it doesn’t take much to push it over the edge.
“We have got to get this sorted before winter or the consequences are unthinkable.”
Earlier this month, the RCHT suffered its worse day for delayed transfers of care, or bed blocking, when more than 50 people fit enough for discharge had to stay put because a Cornwall Council social care package or a place in a community hospital had not been arranged.
In a briefing paper to be put before members of the OSC, Jo Gibbs, chief operating officer at the RCHT, said the situation had been getting steadily worse in the run up to their declaration of a major incident on October 7.
She said that in the week beforehand, a total of 26 elective, or non urgent, operations were cancelled, 254 people waited for longer than four hours in the A&E department and ambulances had to wait more than 30 minutes to be released a total of 77 times.
On October 7, the situation intensified and 17 elective operations were cancelled while 54 people waited in casualty for more than four hours and ambulance were subject to delays of more than 30 minutes on 19 occasions.
Mrs Gibbs said the hospital must be able to discharge more than 20 patients a day, or 100 per week into the hands of the council’s social care department or community hospitals.
She warned: “Ongoing pressure on social care and continuing healthcare budgets may have an impact across the community and further increase delayed transfers of care for RCHT.”
A paper for the OSC written by Tryphaena Doyle, Head of Urgent Care at NHS Kernow, the GP led clinical commissioning group which purchases healthcare on behalf of patients, said regional NHS managers had become involved.
It said that ordinarily health and social care providers work well together to manage day to day variations in demand.
However on October 7, “something went wrong”, said the paper, adding that all partners were committed to working together to ensure there was no repeat of the episode.