Fears hospital bed-blocking crisis will worsen this winter
Fears are growing that a bed-blocking "crisis" at Cornwall's biggest hospital, that has repeatedly caused operations to be called off, will only get worse over winter.
It emerged on Monday that more than 50 people who were medically fit enough to leave Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro were unable to do so because a lack of further care options.
The hospital revealed it had cancelled 14 operations because of a lack of beds and said that on average around 30 patients a day were being delayed in departing.
The Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust declared its second major incident in a month earlier this year as it battled bed-blocking combined with high emergency admissions and an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug. With winter only a matter of months away, Graham Webster, vice-chairman of Health Initiative Cornwall, said it was clear the trust had reached crisis point.
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"We are seeing levels of delayed transfer of care that we have never witnessed before," he said. "As we get deeper in to winter more and more patients are going to be affected, more operations are going to be postponed, waiting lists are going to grow, and there's going to be more and more patients waiting for a bed. There are quite clearly capacity issues here in Cornwall. In the last four years we have cut something like 70 beds from our community hospitals."
Andrew George, MP for St Ives, and a member of the influential Health Select Committee, called upon health chiefs to reverse the removal of community hospital beds – including at Poltair Hospital in West Cornwall which closed ten in-patient beds in 2012.
"It is clear that, with a growing elderly population with more complex health needs, we need more rather than fewer community hospital beds," he said. "Many patients still have health needs and are not in a state to be discharged directly to their homes. Otherwise the pressure will intensify and more operations will be cancelled."
Peninsula Community Health which runs the hospital said it was working closely with its partners to ensure patients received the "right care" in the "right settings".
But RCHT chief executive Lezli Boswell said the inability to discharge was due to a lack of community health and social care support.
She said: "It is this ongoing and unacceptable situation that has led us again to regrettably cancel planned operations. 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."
Cornwall Council , which has an overspend of £3 million in services for older people and people with disabilities, said it was working closely with its partners.