December 1, 2020

More waited over 12 hours for bed at Greater Manchester trust than anywhere else – Manchester Evening News

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/covid-cases-build-more-people-19271480

Two hundred people waited more than 12 hours for a bed at A&Es run by Pennine Acute NHS Trust last month as the second wave of Covid and the start of winter pressures hit simultaneously.

The trust – which runs the Royal Oldham, North Manchester General and Fairfield General – recorded more 12-hour waits than anywhere else in the country and accounted for a sixth of those experienced nationally.

It is understood the pressures have been particularly severe at the Royal Oldham, which serves a borough that has had consistently high Covid infection rates for months, a situation now feeding through into hospitals.

However North Manchester General and Fairfield have also been under major strain as more and more beds have been filled by people who have the virus.

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Overall, the number of people waiting 12 hours or more for a bed – once being assessed at A&E as needing one – has more than quadrupled in Greater Manchester compared to this time last year.

Pennine Acute saw the biggest numbers but is not the only hospital trust in the conurbation to appear towards the bottom of the national league table.

It is understood the pressures have been particularly severe at the Royal Oldham, which serves a borough that has had consistently high Covid infection rates for months, a situation now feeding through into hospitals
(Image: MEN Media)

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust, which was hit sooner than many others by high numbers of Covid patients, was tenth worst out of the country’s 200-plus hospital trusts on the same measure.

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees Stepping Hill hospital, was 12th.

Separately Stepping Hill hospital also had the worst four-hour wait figures nationally, with a third of patients waiting longer than that to be seen. However the trust has struggled for years on that measure and the figure is only slightly worse than this time in 2019.

Nevertheless the statistics for October, which cover a period before non-urgent work was cancelled across the board here this week, speak to the growing pressures within the Greater Manchester hospital system overall as the second wave of Covid patients has hit.

In October 2019, 72 people across Greater Manchester waited in A&E more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital after a decision to do so had been taken by medics, most of those at Stepping Hill.

A year later, that number has jumped to 300 – two thirds of which were at Pennine Acute.

Oldham town centre in August

It is understood a key reason for that has been consistently high Covid infection rates in Oldham. The virus in Oldham – as in most other parts of Greater Manchester – has been described as ‘endemic’ in the community since the first lockdown ended, meaning it remained prevalent as it fell away in most parts of the country.

Cases have gradually become more severe as the months have gone by and patients are occupying more and more beds, mostly outside of intensive care, making it harder to discharge people and free up space for others.

One senior health official said there is now an ‘epidemic on top of endemic’ picture in the borough, with rates among people aged over 60 in particular very high, at more than 600 cases per 100,000.

Those infections began to feed through into the hospital system as autumn drew in, although the figures for Pennine Acute do not break down exactly how long the waits for beds have been at the Royal Oldham, as opposed to other hospitals in the trust.

While Oldham has particularly been struggling, North Manchester General has been coming under increasing pressure too.

North Manchester General
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

It is understood that this weekend the hospital was moreorless full, with around 120 Covid patients occupying beds. Like Oldham, Manchester is recording very high infection rates among the over-65s, meaning some of those cases are yet to find their way into the system.

Fairfield hospital in Bury had also been flagged internally by NHS bed planners at the end of October due to fears general beds were set to quickly run out.

Last week hospitals here collectively agreed to scale down routine and non-urgent work across the Greater Manchester system, although hospitals remain under strain. Yesterday Andy Burnham confirmed that the system as a whole was offering mutual aid to Pennine’s hospitals.

The pressures are also creating strain on the North West Ambulance Service, as the M.E.N. has reported previously.

Today’s figures – which show 12-hour waits have doubled nationally compared to the same month last year, although they have more than quadrupled in Greater Manchester – were described as ‘massively worrying’ by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

Ambulances queuing outside A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary last month
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the college, said she was ‘appalled and alarmed’.

“Despite our repeated calls for action, crowding and corridor care is back and it has to stop,” she said. “It is a dangerous and unsafe situation that puts enormous pressure on staff and departments and now increases the risk of hospital acquired infection to patients.

“We simply cannot leave patients for hours in crowded corridors without social distancing, making infection prevention control measures impossible; potentially exposing them to infections.”

Currently senior health figures and politicians believe the hospital system here is likely to hit a peak of Covid cases at around the end of November or the start of December, but it remains too soon to tell how long that peak could last.

One said that either way, the coming weeks would be ‘grim’ for the NHS in Greater Manchester, although politicians including Andy Burnham and Manchester council’s leader Sir Richard Leese have repeatedly insisted that they are confident the system can cope.

A spokesman for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, on behalf of all the conurbation’s trusts, said: “NHS staff across the North West are working tirelessly to deal with the rising pressures on the NHS as a result of the ongoing response to the pandemic and working hard to ensure all of our patients are treated safely and efficiently and reducing any delays.

“We would like to express our regret to anyone experiencing long waits for treatment.

“The colder months are always a challenging time for the NHS and this year, those seasonal pressures are also being exacerbated by demands created by Covid-19, the increased admissions to hospital, and the numbers of seriously ill patients being treated in our intensive care units.

“During November we are making some changes in our emergency departments which will mean patients are assessed on arrival at the hospital and directed to the most appropriate department or service for their needs. This may include referral back to a community-based service or to their own GPs.

“Our hospitals are currently under increasing pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic so the public are advised to only go to the emergency department when they really need. However do please seek help if you need it. Anyone who is unsure of the right place to get treatment should contact NHS 111, either on the phone or online.”