Health bosses at a hospital trust have drawn up a plan of action to ease growing pressure on its emergency department.
The Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Trust has declared improving access to emergency care as its number one operational priority for the year.
A report before trust members explained the trust has been hit by two winters in a row of “very severe emergency pressures”.
As a result, patients have had longer waits to be admitted to a bed, longer waits for an operation, suffered cancellations (not only at very short notice, but for some on several occasions) and difficulty in being admitted to the best ward for their particular condition, the report said.
It has also resulted in increased pressure on staff, poor morale and increased expense on outsourcing some operations to the private sector, it added.
Interim chief executive Peter Reading described the issue as “the biggest single risk to the quality of care we offer”.
He added: “Financially, it has a massive impact on our spending, but it also undermines our ability to deliver our Cost Improvement Programme.”
The issue, he said, was “not unique” to the trust.
The report said the cause of the pressure is the severity of illnesses, an increased length of stay in hospital for those aged over 80 and a shortage of capacity to accommodate patients in the community.
Dr Reading said: “The intensity reflects the fact that acute hospitals can’t close the door. Every other part of the system can close the door so the pressure manifests itself here and the risk to patient quality and to money is borne here.”
The trust is aiming to create capacity equivalent to 60 inpatient beds by November 30.
Its initiatives for this fall into three categories: reducing admissions by improving ‘front door’ services, reducing length of stay by improving the quality of inpatient services and improving capacity through the timely discharge of patients not requiring acute hospital care.
Members were also asked to agree contingency actions, such as outsourcing to the private sector, to be developed in the interim should the board feel, by the end of June, it could not rely on the preferred options to create the extra capacity.
After the meeting, chief operating officer Angus Maitland said: “The trust’s number one operational priority is to improve the care for patients admitted as an emergency within our hospitals and across the local area, in partnership with other organisations.”