THE NHS in the Solihull area is “under sustained pressure” according to the region’s health trust bosses.
In the West Midlands region the NHS struggled to cope with winter pressures over Christmas with bed occupancy rates far exceeding the 85 per cent maximum guidelines, NHS England data states.
The research pinpointed key indicators of ailing services that include accident and emergency diverts (where ambulances are sent to another A&E department), general and acute bed occupancy rates and ambulance delays.
The Heart Of England NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Solihull, Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals , reached nearly 95 per cent bed occupancy rates and consistently exceeded 90 per cent from December 28 to 31.
The Trust also struggled with 25 ambulance delays that exceeded one hour and 153 delays that were between half an hour and an hour.
A spokesman from the trust said: “The NHS has been under sustained pressure over the Christmas period which has affected capacity in trusts regionally and nationally.
“The Trust is putting in place all the necessary procedures in line with the new NHS winter pressures protocol.
“Winter is always an extremely busy time for the NHS.
“Providing excellent patient care will always be our top priority and when we are under pressure this means we have to give priority to those patients that need care the most.
“We are currently working through the implications of the announcement so we cannot yet say how many operations and/or appointments will be deferred.
“But clearly we want to postpone as few appointments as possible. Patients can be assured that they will kept informed and so there is no need for patients to contact their hospital.”
Dr Francis Campbell, associate medical director, NHS England (West Midlands) said: “The NHS organisations in the West Midlands have planned for this time of year and those plans are now being put into action.
“Decisions are being taken at a local level, as part of our winter planning, to stop some outpatient appointments and routine surgical procedures rather than cancelling them at short notice which we know can be upsetting for patients.
“Doing this allows hospitals and doctors to be able to make changes to deal with emergency patients.”
Expectation that NHS services would be strained to a perilous level over Christmas became an unfortunate reality with health secretary Jeremy Hunt and prime minister Theresa May apologising for ailing services.
There has been nationwide delays in ambulance response times and to some operations, over-admittance to hospital beds and advice from NHS England to cancel non-urgent operations.
From a national perspective, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “These figures paint a clear picture of just how congested and overstretched the system is, and is further evidence that pressure on the NHS continues to intensify.
“The winter months have always have been more of a challenge for the NHS, but in recent years the pressure on staff and services has reached new levels with patients unfairly bearing the brunt of long waiting times and cancellations.
“We urgently need more long-term planning to ensure the NHS can meet rising demand on services and has the capacity to deal with the inevitable spike in demand each winter.
“Funding is a critical part of this, given that the NHS receives about £10billion less annually compared to other leading EU countries.
“This is why we are calling on the government to plug this funding deficit, with investment that would deliver the extra beds, staff and services which are badly needed.”
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, responding to today’s NHS England statistics, said: “These figures reveal the shocking scale of the crisis in our NHS this winter.
“Over 75,000 patients have been left languishing in the back of ambulances this winter, something the Government should be deeply ashamed of.
“Labour and clinicians have warned ministers for months to prepare for this winter, but concerns were casually dismissed out of hand.
“Theresa May’s boast that the NHS is the best prepared it’s ever been has now been entirely discredited.
“The truth is we are now approaching the 8th year of desperate underfunding and cuts to our health and social care services by the Tories.
“We’ve seen thousands of beds cut from the NHS and the numbers of days lost to delayed discharge are up by 50 per cent since 2010.
“The NHS is being pushed to the brink under Theresa May and it is patients suffering as a consequence.”