Extra beds will help, but don’t solve the problem

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Any regular readers of The News, or indeed anyone who has had the misfortune to need to attend A&E at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham recently, will know that the service is massively oversubscribed.

And for that reason we welcome the plans to open 15 extra beds at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital to help cope with the demand.

We are not here to criticise the staff at the hospitals – we know they are operating under extreme pressure and doing the best with the resources at hand.

But the system as a whole is at fault when so-called bed blockers cannot be moved to make way for newly-arrived patients.

Presumably, the majority of the people who are taking up those beds don’t want to be stuck in A&E either.

Yes, there are still too many people attending A&E with trivial complaints and yes, not enough people who should be using it as their first port of call are going to the treatment centre at St Mary’s Hospital in Milton.

There needs to be better education about the functions of the various elements of the NHS, and what you should be using when.

This initiative is being funded from the £8m extra funding being pumped into Portsmouth and south east Hampshire this winter.

But what will happen to those beds when the money runs out?

These beds will close again. But it is highly unlikely that the underlying problem will have disappeared by the time that happens.

Demand is seasonal, but it only decreases, it doesn’t disappear when the weather warms up.

As was shown in yesterday’s front page story about ambulances being unable to unload because of back-ups when they arrive at QA, once the system backs up it leads to all kinds of further problems.

While the extra beds will prove invaluable while they are in use, they are not going to fix everything.

Something more than a metaphorical sticking plaster is needed to remedy the situation – and that will take more money and better allocation of resources.

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