|This is how NHS England manipulate and manage the press coverage of the NHS.|
Today the Nuffield Trust has reported on the large number of hospital trusts declaring ‘black’ alerts in December. This means that these Trusts, which regularly included Basildon, hospital were reporting severe bed pressures and lack of beds to admit new patients.
5 trusts had to declare critical incidents at various times last month – Basildon was one of these. A critical incident warning is that there is a high risk of patient care being compromised. That safe care may not be delivered. No hospital – including Basildon- wishes to declare critical incident status unless it is absolutely necessary.
Basildon is in a much worse state than many other hospitals across England because of having fewer beds than are needed. The occupancy rate of beds in Basildon is above average and one of the highest in England – this means that turning away new patients is something they have to do when literally there is no more space in the hospital. The rate of infection is higher where bed occupancy is high. This is because it is more difficult to isolate patients . I reported yesterday on patients being cared for on the wrong wards and the impact this can have on their care and treatment.
Very confused patients or patients with complex needs need much greater care. Bed managers insisting that a ward admits a patient with very high needs then leave the ward – with no extra staff- but having to look after this patient sometimes on a one to one basis leaving other patients with less care and support. Risks increase for all patients in these circumstances. Exactly this has I believe been happening at Basildon hospital .
Worryingly the worst period is yet to come. Last year the most challenging week was that of 25th January where the NHS had to open beds the equivalent of more than 5 extra hospitals across the country to admit patients.
NHS England today in their press statements is urging the public not to go to hospital unless it is an emergency. They suggest pharmacies , GPs and NHS111 . The problem here though is the number of patients going to hospital that medical staff decide need admission. No beds means those patients are stuck in A&E. No wonder that waiting times in A&E are now at their highest for 15 years!
Much of the problem is the difficulty hospitals find themselves in discharging patients because there is no care available for them to be looked after in their own homes. Today news reports show this problem is even more severe in mental health trusts. The pressures on mental health care are so high that they have been unable to discharge patients home because there is insufficient care available for them at home and the patients would then be at risk.
Mental health care – inadequately funded for many years across the country – really is in an awful state. When my own son ( an adult now) was ( not this year) in a London hospital A&E and had been assessed as being in a mental health crisis they were unable to find an acute mental health bed for him in the whole of London! Whilst waiting he managed to escape from hospital and went missing for several weeks – whilst in a diagnosed psychotic condition – and turned up later in an another European country where he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for care.
This crisis – which is a funding crisis of growing proportions- is affecting both physical and mental health care. Both health and social care need a huge injection of funds so that proper care can be provided.
Meanwhile I for one will join with others in opposing any bed reductions in our local hospitals in South and mid Essex or the downgrading of existing services. We must build a campaign to stop the destruction of the NHS.
By Nick Bradley, who blogs at Save the NHS
6th January 2017