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Bed occupancy rate drops as NHS pressure eases

Pressure on NHS hospitals in England eased slightly in the last week, with fewer patients facing lon..

By admin , in UK , at January 18, 2018

Pressure on NHS hospitals in England eased slightly in the last week, with fewer patients facing long delays in ambulances, but bed occupancy remains well above recommended safe limits.

In Wales, the latest monthly data reveals hospitals saw record attendances at A&E in December, and the greatest-ever number of calls to the ambulance service.

The latest weekly situation reports for NHS England, recording data for the week to Sunday January 14, show that 94.9% of beds are occupied, down marginally from 95% the previous week. A figure of 85% is considered safe.

One in eight patients continue to experience ambulance handover delays, where vehicles wait more than the target of 30 minutes to pass patients on and prepare for the next call, though the number fell.

There were 12,600 delays of more than 30 minutes, down more than 4,000 from 16,700 the previous week.

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There was also a fall in ambulance diverts, where busy hospitals send patients elsewhere, down from 32 to six.

A spokesperson for NHS England said raised levels of flu and norovirus continue to put pressure on busy A&Es and other front line services.

"Today's figures show pressures abating somewhat compared to the prior week, and with hospitals generally continuing to cope," they said.

Monthly statistics for Wales showed a 10% jump in the number of calls to the ambulance service on the previous month, with an average of 1,450 a day.

A&E attendances in December 2017 were 5% up on the same month in 2016, but down marginally on November 2017.

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The Welsh figures come as a number of A&E consultants in Wales have written to the first minister, who has responsibility for the NHS in the Principality, to say patient safety is being compromised to "an unacceptable degree".

The figures show 78.9% of patients were seen and treated, admitted or discharged within four hours, well short of the 95% target and 1.5% down on the previous year.

In December 3,741 patients spent 12 hours or more in an emergency care facility, an increase of 769 patients compared to the same month in 2016.

Labour said its analysis of the latest data shows more than 100,000 patients have been stuck in ambulances over the winter, with nearly 25,000 waiting more than an hour.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the figures expose an "uncomfortable reality" for patients and the ambulance waits were "unacceptable".

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NHS Providers, which represents hospital and ambulance trusts, said the statistics demonstrate that conditions continue to be "extremely challenging".

Director of policy and strategy Saffron Cordery said: "Although we saw a very slight easing of pressures last week, NHS trusts are still working at or beyond full stretch, resulting – at times – in care for patients that falls short of what trusts and their staff want to provide.

"Having said that, it is encouraging to see how NHS trusts have worked to recover the situation, with far fewer ambulance diverts and a significant drop in delays to hand over patients when they arrive at A & E.

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"However bed occupancy rates are still almost 10% higher than the recommended safe level of 85%, and it is worrying to see the figure for adult critical care beds at the highest level so far this winter.

"The impact of flu and cold weather remains a serious concern. The worst of winter may be yet to come."

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