Number of patients waiting more than 12 hours for hospital trolleys in Bristol ‘worst in England’

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‘We were nervous when we had half these numbers and it’s getting worse now’

More patients were waiting on trolleys for over 12 hours at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Weston General than at any other hospital trust in England, the latest figures reveal.

A report to bosses at University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Trust (UHBW) says 844 people were not admitted to a bed within the acceptable time limit across its sites in February “which was the worst in England and the highest number of breaches recorded since the start of the pandemic”.

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And more than three-quarters of ambulance handovers exceeded the 30-minute target, the report said.

A trust board meeting was told overworked staff were exhausted to the point of tears and there was a risk that those being asked to take on extra duties to help get through the backlog of waiting lists – including 386 patients waiting over two years for the start of treatment – could “become ill”.

Members heard there was an increased risk of harm and delays for patients waiting for ambulance transfers between UHBW sites, which also include Bristol Children’s Hospital, Bristol Eye Hospital and St Michael’s Hospital.

The crisis is the result of a perfect storm of a spike in Covid-19 admissions because of Omicron, record numbers of A&E visits, staff absences, the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) having to be reconfigured for a third time during the pandemic, and bed-blocking caused by a shortage of places for people to go who are medically fit for discharge, a committee heard.

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Non-executive director and UHBW quality and outcomes committee chairman Julian Dennis told the meeting on Wednesday (March 30): “We’ve got issues with closure of community care homes which is causing us serious problems, and that is reflected in concerns we see at A&E, with numbers in A&E the highest ever recorded again.

“That is extraordinary – we were nervous when we had half these numbers and it’s getting worse now. That affects ambulance handovers.”

A report with February’s figures said: “There were 844 trolley waits [in emergency departments] in excess of 12 hours across UHBW sites, which was the worst in England and the highest number of breaches recorded since the start of the pandemic.” Of these, 514 were in Bristol and 330 were at Weston.

The report said: “Poor flow through the hospital has also affected ambulance handover delays, where 77.1 per cent were over 30 minutes at the BRI.”

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It said one-fifth of the general and acute beds were occupied by patients well enough to leave.

“Delays were reported across all discharge-to-assess pathways with Covid continuing to contribute towards higher staff absence and care home closures,” it said.

The report said 101,471 outpatients were overdue a follow-up appointment, with almost a third of those by more than nine months. It said the impact on staff wellbeing “cannot be underestimated”.

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