Hospital at crisis point

PUBLISHED: 13:34 16 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

IPSWICH Hospital is at crisis point as it is forced to cancel operations because it is struggling to cope with as many as 70 bedblockers at a time.

By Tracey Sparling

Health Reporter

IPSWICH Hospital is at crisis point today as it is forced to cancel operations because it is struggling to cope with as many as 70 bedblockers at a time.

The hospital, which has 800 beds on 34 wards, typically has 50 elderly people in beds simply because there is no nursing home or alternative care available.

Hospital Chairman Peter Bye said: "We are in a crisis situation, which is alarming.

"I can't think of a more important issue, or one that affects so much of the work we do. We have now reached a level I had hoped the system would prevent.

"I'm not entirely surprised that we have a gridlock, which is having a huge impact on our elective work."

He added: "The mechanisms exist and meetings to tackle this issue are going on, but what is happening now brings it all sharply into focus, but this problem is behind everybody in Suffolk, whose combined efforts can't resolve it without more help from the Government."

The number of bedblockers soared to 70 last week, and this, coupled with high emergency admissions, meant that planned operations had to be cancelled because no beds were free.

The hospital cancelled 'a couple of hundred' operations in the first two weeks of its new financial year, and this has had a knock-on effect on waiting lists.

The amount of bedblocking had eased by the end of December, but is now firmly back as the hospital's most major problem.

Today The Evening Star did its own survey of vacancies at ten nursing homes in the Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Ipswich and Stowmarket areas. In total their were nine vacancies. However this included some shared rooms.

Mr Bye said it wasn't the patients' fault that they were stranded in hospital, and non executive director John Mowles agreed they often recover better in a nursing home or at home with carers' help.

Head of planning Deirdre Kinsella said another problem was that emergency surgery usually take two to three days longer to recover in hospital, and cost more, than people who have planned operations.

Director of finance and performance Chris Dooley said: "We are looking at ways of costing these patients who should be treated elsewhere to show what resources they consume. As well as the bed cost, there are also anaesthetists and surgeons not doing the work they should be doing when operations are cancelled, and it affects their morale."

In June, a total of 70 people were waiting more than 15 months for an operation, and 2,600 outpatients had been waiting for more than 13 weeks for a hospital appointment.

Departments doing well include dermatology, which has hit its target to see GP-referred patients within two weeks, for the first time, and the ear nose and throat department.

The inpatient waiting list dropped to 6,480 in June, and the hospital is also hoping to soon see improvements in waiting times for orthodontics, and rheumatology.

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