A&E patients turned away 13 times in one week

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had to turn patients away from its A&E units 13 times in one week, including four times in one day, as the snow left it facing ‘extremely challenging’ conditions.

The trust was forced to divert emergency patients away from the A&Es at two of the hospitals it runs, the Worcestershire Royal in Worcester and Alexandra in Redditch.

The increased number of patients seeking care as temperatures dropped dramatically for the first time this winter meant it had to declare an ‘A&E divert’ four times on both 4 and 5 December, and a further five times the following week.

Snow put the trust under so much pressure that it issued a plea for nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants who could safely get to either hospital to come in and help out.

Some staff slept in the hospitals and others stayed well past the end of their shifts as part of a major operation to keep the hospitals open.

The unusually high number of diverts shows how the cold weather has added to the already stretched health service, especially A&E units.

The trust’s 13 diverts were disclosed in NHS England’s latest performance figures.

NHS data also showed that the Worcestershire trust treated just 70.1 per cent of patients within the required four hours of their arrival in A&E during November - the ninth worst record among 137 acute trusts in England. The target is 95 per cent. A total of 2,983 of the 9,984 patients had to wait longer than four hours.

The Worcestershire trust is also the ninth worst in England at treating cancer patients urgently within 62 days and the 29th poorest at giving patients non-urgent operations within the 18-week target. Its bed occupancy has been running at 98.4 per cent 0 well over the 85 per cent the NHS recommends to ensure patients receive safe care.

The trust’s recent staffing figures show that in September 40 per cent of its wards had so few nurses they were below the ‘safe staffing’ fill rates used by the NHS.

Michelle McKay, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals’ NHS Trust chief executive, said: “It’s tough. We are certainly feeling increased pressure.”