New figures show that the occupancy of Merseyside’s hospital beds has reached high-risk levels during this winter.
Amid claims that the NHS is in a state of crisis across the UK, the British Medical Association has reported that in the first week of January this year, almost three-quarters of trusts had a bed occupancy rate of over 95% on at least one day, and local hospitals have been no exception.
Using more than 85% of beds is considered dangerous and can disrupt operations, leave limited space for emergencies and increase the risk of mistakes and infections. Some hospitals had days where they were so busy that every single bed was occupied.
The BMA concludes that the situation is “at breaking point”, though the Government’s Department of Health denies this.
At least one local hospital had more full beds than the recommended limit every single day in December and January.
The highest level of occupied beds in the region belonged to Arrowe Parke on the Wirral, which had no spare places at all on four separate days this winter – despite opening 80 new beds in January.
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Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust runs Arrowe Park and its Director of Operations, Chris Oliver, said: “As one of the biggest and busiest acute hospitals in the region, this has been a very challenging few months for us as demand on our emergency and inpatient services continue to grow.
“Not only have we seen an increase in ambulance attendances but an increase in patients with more serious and complex conditions being admitted to our wards.”
However, Arrowe Park is not the only local hospital under immense strain for bed space.
A spokesperson at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University NHS Trust said: “Winter is traditionally a challenging period for all NHS services. Recently, however, we have seen unprecedented pressures on our services.
“Our staff are working tremendously hard to manage increasing demands and patient safety is always our priority.
“We are also asking people with non-urgent conditions to go to a more appropriate alternative such as GP out of hours, pharmacy or a walk in centre.”
They spokesperson added: “We should all be extremely proud of the dedication, professionalism and compassion of staff in the NHS and community and social services who work tirelessly for our patients.
“On behalf of local NHS services, I would like to thank them immensely and also thank patients and loved ones for the support and co-operation.”