New Cornwall hospital ward to reduce so-called 'bed blocking' and get patients discharged quicker

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

A new hospital ward in Cornwall dedicated to helping people who are medically fit to be discharged sooner is showing signs of freeing more beds for new patients.

The aim of the Wheal Vor ward is to rehabilitate those who are typically older and more vulnerable, so they can be discharged without need for care at home.

It comes as the South West's hospitals have recorded the worst ambulance waiting times in England - partly caused by a lack of free beds to treat people coming to hospital.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals topped the list for the proportion of arrivals that were delayed by more than an hour.

492 patients arrived by ambulance to Cornwall's only emergency department in the seven days to January 16. 215 had to wait for a minimum of 30 minutes, and 200 waited for more than an hour.

Fewer ambulance appeared to be queuing outside the emergency department on Friday 21 January. Credit: ITV News

The new Whey Vor ward has discharged 22 patients since it opened two weeks ago.

But the hospital's medical director, Allister Grant, admitted that this will not solve the crisis in Cornwall's adult social care as they "regularly have over 100 patients who are medically fit for discharge."

This week Cornwall Council declared a critical incident in adult social care and agreed to redeploy staff to help remove 100 patients from the hospital in the next two weeks.

Mr Grant said that they were dealt a "blow" when the news was swiftly followed by the announcement of plans to close three Cornwall Care homes. "Some of those patients in the Wheal Vor unit will still require care. They will need to be discharged from hospital, either back into their home with packages of care or to a care facility. And the news that three care homes that are going to close is a blow, and it is going to make it much more difficult for adult social care to manage that current crisis," he said.

Medical Director Allister Grant says there's still a huge amount of pressure on the staff at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Credit: ITV News

Frazer Underwood, the consultant nurse behind the Wheal Vor ward, said it is still early days but staff are confident they can start discharging patients more quickly.

"We are looking at trying to analyse how much impact the ward is having, but I imagine a lot of those [discharged patients] would have stayed in for at least another 24 hours."

The new ward is also a training facility for a new cohort of apprentices at the hospital.

Leigh Wiles had worked in retail for the past 10 years but applied for the training after seeing he could retrain without having to move across the country.

"It's not the easiest job, of course, but it's so rewarding seeing them leave, going home or to other places where they're cared for in a better environment."