Queen Alexandra Hospital doctor says 'demand outstripping capacity' with 'unheard of' bed occupancy

LEADERS at Queen Alexandra Hospital have said demand is 'outstripping capacity' and elective care will be 'inevitably compromised'.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 4:55 am
GV of QA Hospital, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

In an update to councillors on Thursday, medical director Dr John Knighton said pressures in the city were 'unheard of' with bed occupancy rates above 99 per cent.

'We will continue to prioritise cancer care no matter what and we will be doing everything we can do to minimise the effect on elective, planned work but there may come a point at which that is inevitably compromised,' he said.

This comes despite falling numbers of Covid-19 patients at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

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Dr Knighton said there were now only 63 being cared for, compared to a post-reopening high of 83 three weeks ago. At its peak in February, 60 per cent of the hospital's beds were filled by coronavirus patients.

'Last week we were running at an overall hospital occupancy rate of over 99 per cent - that's an almost unheard of level, even for the depths of winter,' he said at the Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting.

'We've seen attendances at our emergency department - both walk-ins and ambulance conveyances - rise steadily since April and continue to rise.'

Dr Knighton added: 'The reality is that at the moment the demand is rising, it's continuing to rise and it is outstripping capacity. The answer to that is to do everything that we can do on all of the different fronts that will make a difference. There is no one thing, of course, it is as always a number of marginal gains on a number of different fronts.'

In a report, the trust said 330 people were visiting the hospital's emergency department each day. Just under half of these were being brought in by ambulance.

'The number of admissions has also continued to rise and sadly that's reflected in some of the challenges in the community with post-acute care,' Dr Knighton added. 'The pressure on the trust has been unusual and rather extreme - particularly for this time of year.'

He said this had given hospital staff less of an opportunity to 'recuperate' ahead of the busier winter period although intiatives, including an extra day of leave, had been brought in to try and deal with this.

Responding to questions about how the trust planned to manage an expected rise in demand on its services over the coming months, he said it was focusing on 'marginal gains on a number of different fronts'.

'Some of that is going to mean managing the demand at our front door differently,' he said. 'Some of that is going to be redirecting people who don't really need an acute hospital to support elsewhere.

'We are going to have to make sure that all of our internal processes are as slick, as good and as effective as they can be to waste as little time as possible.'

But he said that if this fails to create enough hospital capacity 'then there can only be a knock-on consequence to elective activity'.

'We have been, and will continue to, try and avoid at almost all costs to avoid affecting the elective capacity,' he added. 'Those patients need to be treated and we're all aware of the escalating backlogs across the country.

'We will continue to prioritise cancer care no matter what and we will be doing everything we can do to minimise the effect on elective, planned work but there may come a point at which that is inevitably compromised.'

He said the trust had successfully increased the number of people receiving planned treatment with more of this work being carried out than had been done before the pandemic and that it was meeting 'the majority' of its cancer targets.

Booster vaccination doses are also now being given to its workforce of which more than 93 per cent has received two doses of one of the Covid-19 vaccines.

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