By Ian Dipple Friday 16 August 2013 Updated: 16/08 10:50
EXTRA nurses are being drafted in as part of plans to ensure the county's hospitals can cope this winter.
There are currently more than 1,683 nurses working for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. The plan is to recruit about five per cent above that level, to reduce the reliance on agency staff and ensure wards are properly manned as demand increases during the colder weather, particularly between October and December when there is traditionally a surge in hospital admissions.
Last winter saw the NHS come under unprecedented pressure which led to warnings a repeat could see the emergency care system collapse.
WAHT has set out an extensive plan to tackle the problem including the creation of specific wards for people with diarrhoea and vomiting - to try and prevent the spread of norovirus around the hospital - additional consultant cover, an increase in physiotherapists, and non-emergency surgery will be suspended at the Alex and Worcestershire Royal between Christmas Eve and January 5 to limit the need to cancel planned operations.
The Surgical Decision Unit at the Alex will also be opened at weekends over the winter period, to separate those people arriving at A&E needing surgery from those requiring medical attention, and there are plans to open an extra 24 beds at the Alex if needed.
The plan will form part of an overall strategy to meet demand this winter when the rest of Worcestershire's NHS unveils its plans next month.
But at a recent Trust board meeting, concerns were raised about the ability of the wider health economy to deliver on its part of the plan and the potential financial impact a repeat of last winter could have on the Trust, if rising emergency demand led to a spike in cancelled operations. Between November and December about 400 operations were cancelled costing around £1million.
Stewart Messer, the Trust's chief operating officer, said the key part of the plan would be working with other NHS organisations and the social care sector to ensure patients who no longer needed to be in hospital were discharged to the right place. But he also revealed there were still issues with about 70 patients - equivalent to three wards worth - sat in hospital who no longer needed their care but could not be discharged.
"If we can manage that flow through the hospital and take that down to more sustainable levels then it wll have the least impact on our ability to treat our elective patients. The major impact on that is to discharge patients effectively and that's the biggest nut yet to crack."
The government has announced a £500million fund over two years to ease the pressure on struggling A&E departments during winter but it is not yet know if any of the cash will be given to Worcestershire.
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