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Leaks reveal record waits for emergency care due to covid pressures

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Very long waits for emergency hospital care have surged in London since mid December, due to a rapid rise in COVID-19 admissions combined with limited capacity, according to figures leaked to HSJ.

Data sent to HSJ indicates that December will set a new record high nationally for the number of 12-hour “trolley waits”. This is when there are 12 hours or longer from the decision is made to admit a patient from the emergency department to hospital, to when they are actually admitted to a bed.

It adds to fears about what will happen if rising covid occupancy — which has left some hospitals running out of staff and acute beds, and intensive care well over normal capacity —  combines with potential additional winter demand in coming weeks.

Several senior hospital managers in areas heavily affected by covid said there were two main factors. One is shortage of beds and operational issues: there are about 6,300 fewer general and acute beds open nationally this winter, due to infection prevention measures. The beds that remain have to be split between covid positive and negative, often taking time to convert more.

Two sources said bed shortages were exacerbated by problems with discharge, particularly of covid patients who no longer need acute care, including “local authorities taking their eye off the ball on designated settings and covid-positive pathways”, according to one.

And another reason behind delays is waiting for covid test results before admitting patients.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 4 January 2021

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