A PEAK in admissions has helped put Dorset County Hospital on the highest level of alert for more than half of the last year.
Figures obtained by the Echo show that 2013-14 has been the worst in five years for the hospital, which was placed on either ‘red’, the highest alert, or ‘amber’ the second highest, for 314 days out of 365.
Alert is part of the hospital’s ‘Escalation Policy’, which is put in place to maintain the flow of patients through the hospital.
Those involved with the hospital say the number of alert days show the ‘ever-increasing pressure’ the health service is under, but assured patients are receiving the best possible care.
There are ‘a number of reasons’ for the alert such as fewer than expected discharges, high admission levels and the number of patients in the High Dependency Unit.
Chiefs say they would ‘prefer not’ to be on alert but ‘the most important thing is that we do everything we can to meet demand.’ A hospital spokesman said: “Alerts can be for a variety of reasons and the alert system is there to trigger actions to ensure that there is capacity to meet demand. “We would, of course, prefer not to be on amber or red alert but the nature of health care is such that circumstances can quickly change and the most important thing is that we do everything possible to meet demand. “ The spokesman added that the level for the past year is the worst in five due to peaks in attendance and high admission levels with ‘greater acuity of patients’.
Patient governor Andy Hutchings paid tribute to the hospital staff and said no patients are suffering.
He added: “These figures show the ever-increasing pressure our health service is under.
“Bed occupancy days are reviewed each year and capacity is adjusted where appropriate.”
“Our staff at Dorset County Hospital cope extremely well in these situations to continue to give the excellent care we have come to expect at this hospital.”
Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the UK has fewer hospital beds per person than almost any other country in Europe.
And levels of overcrowding have breached safety limits – with more than 50,000 hospital beds lost in England since 2001.
In March, the Echo reported how bed blocking had become a concern at the hospital.
A meeting heard that patients are being told they can leave, then have to wait ‘four or five hours’ for medicines.
But those at the top said until a new £500,000 electronic system is fully installed, problems will remain.
Patient governor Wendy Nightingale said that on a feedback form one patient had said: “Discharge was a mess. I have had to wait for ages for my medication.’ Chairman Dr Jeffrey Ellwood said it was a ‘fundamental flaw in our patient experience’ and likened the hospital to an airline that loses its customers’ bags.
He said: “Like an airline, we are getting you from A to B safely, and then we blow it by losing your luggage.”
The meeting heard that the hospital had made ‘good progress’ in cutting waiting times, but that problems still exist.
Governors will be presented with a progress report in September.
THE hospital has been on alert for 1,026 days since 2010
Amber 128 days
Red 159 days
Amber 113 days
Red 56 days
Amber 175 days
Red 81 days
Amber 119 days
Red 195 days