New crisis at hospital

CRUSHING pressure for beds meant Ipswich Hospital had none available on 12 out of the first 20 days in June, it emerged today.Furthermore, during the first half of this year the hospital was on black alert - its highest level - for at least part of the time, on four days out of every ten.

CRUSHING pressure for beds meant Ipswich Hospital had none available on 12 out of the first 20 days in June, it emerged today.

Furthermore, during the first half of this year the hospital was on black alert - its highest level - for at least part of the time, on four days out of every ten.

The only extra beds the hospital has when it is on black alert are emergency ones which have to be specially opened.

In addition, figures obtained by the Evening Star under the Freedom of Information Act show it was on black or red alert - where there are less than eight ordinary beds available - on more than six out of every ten days this year.

From January 1 to June 20 this year the hospital was on black alert for at least part of the day 69 times and on red alert 45 times.

The news comes as health watchdogs are to investigate whether patients are being discharged too early.

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The Patient and Public Involvement Forum for Ipswich Hospital has asked bosses to hand over figures showing how many patients are re-admitted within seven days of being discharged.

The number of red and black alerts indicate the creaking burden staff are under as they try to cope with demand in a hospital that has shut 71 beds since last September.

However, Jan Rowsell, a spokeswoman for the management of Ipswich Hospital, denied the closures had put further pressure on the availability of beds.

Ms Rowsell said: “The pressure on beds is immense. We would not say those 71 beds have had a direct impact.

“This is just a picture of an extremely busy hospital. What it doesn't show is the work we are doing to make sure we are using the resources we have got in the best way possible.

“We have never turned anyone away who needs emergency care. We are a busy emergency hospital and we do care for a growing number of people who have complex medical problems. The staff have been marvellous in coping.”

Ms Rowsell said the hospital was in a transition period where patients were being moved from a traditional bed-based service to one which was about providing care in a range of settings in the hospital and in the community.

Ipswich Hospital has been under financial pressure over the past 12 months as it tries to wipe out an £18million debt and balance its books.

Its management is adamant it is vital to use financial resources in the best way possible.

Ms Rowsell said a project is being launched to look at ways of easing the bed crises.

She said: “It's a big project, looking at what we can do differently so this pressure does not continue in the future. The whole point of the work we are doing is to move away from this picture of intense pressure on beds.”

Although Ms Rowsell was unable to say when the project would be finished and pressure on beds alleviated, she added: “We will put as many of our plans into action as soon as we can.

“We can absolutely guarantee that we are here for people when they need us. We would move heaven and earth to care for local people in their hospital.”

Black: There are no beds available in the hospital

(except emergency ones which have had to be specially opened)

This happened on a maximum of 69 occasions from January 1 until June 20.

Red: There are less than eight ordinary beds available for patients.

This happened on a maximum of 45 occasions.

Amber: There are less than 20 remaining beds unoccupied.

This happened on a maximum of 40 occasions.