NHS bosses warn this Christmas could be the ‘darkest to date’ as Bristol hospital beds near full capacity

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Both Bristol NHS Trusts were close to running out of beds for patients last week

Patient care in Bristol’s hospitals could be ‘compromised’ as a surge in flu cases almost led to there being no hospital beds available, last week. NHS bosses haved warned that this Christmas period could be one of the ‘darkest to date’ as many hospitals across the country near full capacity.

Both of the city’s NHS Trusts, North Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston (UHBW), exceeded the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s threshold for when hospitals are deemed ‘too busy’. According to the association, hospitals are considered to be too busy if more than 85% of their available general and acute beds are occupied by patients. After this, patient care is thought to be compromised.

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Last week, from Dec 12 - 18, just 100 beds were free at the North Bristol NHS Trust and UHBW as they reached 98.7% and 91.4% capacity respectively. North Bristol’s Trust has 887 beds, 875 were occupied last week - leaving just 12 free. While the UHBW has 1,029 beds, 941 were occupied leaving 88 free.

A rise in Covid and flu patients have contributed to the lack of beds available at the North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol Royal Infirmary. Earlier this month, National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, Professor Julian Redhead described this winter as the “perfect storm of pressures” on NHS staff with record numbers needing A&E.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, confirmed that a surge in flu cases had “impacted bed occupancy, which continues to be above levels considered safe”. More patients were also staying longer in hospital because of more severe illnesses and delayed discharges, putting a massive strain on the entire health and care system, she said.

She added: "Trust leaders are expecting this Christmas to be one of their darkest to date. As they work hard to mitigate the impact of ongoing strike action, they are also having to contend with an incredibly long list of other serious challenges.”

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The figures within Bristol are not anomalies though - nine in 10 acute hospitals had more than 85% of their beds filled in the week ending December 18.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “The NHS has prepared for winter extensively with more beds, extra call handlers as well as the expansion of falls response services, control centres and respiratory hubs, but with flu hospitalisations and Covid cases on the rise, the best things you can do to protect yourself is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.”

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