'Bed-blocking' in Cornwall causing extraordinary situation, hospital boss warns

The boss of Cornwall's main hospital has said so-called bed blocking is causing an "extraordinary situation" where ambulance responses and waiting times are increasing.

Royal Cornwall Hospital has reported that hundreds of beds are being blocked by patients who are medically fit to be discharged but have no care services ready to support them further.

This has then caused further issues with the emergency department meaning that ambulances are regularly seen queueing up outside of the Truro hospital.

Steve Williamson, chief executive of Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, told the trust’s board that work being done to relieve the situation is not working.

He said that up to 200 people, the equivalent of seven full hospital wards, should either be in their own home with care support or in other appropriate settings.

Ambulances outside of the Royal Cornwall Hospital on 4 July, 2022. Credit: ITV News West Country

“Without these delays there would be sufficient hospital bed capacity within Cornwall to accommodate emergency admissions, as well as those waiting for planned procedures," he said.

"The pressures that Royal Cornwall Hospital faces with the number of patients waiting for discharge to care services is increasing. We are under increasing pressure and challenges.

“We are being used as a proxy social care facility or for domiciliary care. That is impacting directly on emergency care for patients to be admitted in a timely way and has a direct impact on ambulances waiting to get patients into hospital.”

The chief executive said that the problem with patients who are medically fit to leave hospital occupying beds was also affecting other services in the hospital and across the health system in Cornwall.

Mr Williamson was asked how the situation compared now to before the Covid-19 pandemic and he said that delayed discharges had risen by 80 per cent compared to the figures in 2019.

He said: “It is an 80 per cent increase in the scale of the challenge that we paced pre-pandemic. That position has continued to deteriorate over the last few months. We are facing an increasing challenge around this.

"It is an extraordinary challenge in delivering the expectations that we have for our level of care in the trust.

“Not only do we have more beds occupied by patients who are ready for discharge but they are staying longer. More beds are occupied by patients who are no longer needing medical treatment, they are waiting discharge.

"We need to bring together health and social care leaders to do everything they can to help the entire system, not just Royal Cornwall Hospital.”

  • Story from LDRS.