‘NEVER again’ – that was the verdict of acute trust chairman Caragh Merrick as she praised staff following the unprecedented crisis which gripped the county’s Accident and Emergency departments last week.
Her comment came in the wake of two patients dying on trolleys in the Emergency Department (ED) at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and a third committing suicide on a ward.
And she has now convened a health summit to be held in February “to thrash out a solution” to the growing health pressures facing the county.
She told a health board meeting: “It breaks my heart to see the sheer commitment shown by our staff and we as a board have to make sure we do not put them in that situation again.”
The health summit will bring together local doctors, other health and social care providers and county councillors with the aim of having a combined solution by June this year ready for implementation in October ready for the onslaught of next winter.
Accident & Emergency departments at the Alexandra Hospital and Worcestershire Royal have seen a massive increase in demand with a 15 per cent rise in arrivals by ambulance over last year peaking at 35 per cent.
Over the Christmas period alone 109 patients waited more than 12 hours on trolleys in A&E, with the main problem at the Royal.
Trust vice chairman John Burbeck said: “We are running at 100 per cent capacity, we’re full, and to be effective we need to be at about 85 per cent and we are not going to fix this without help from elsewhere.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Merrick said what was noticeable from the recent crisis was the high number of seriously ill frail and elderly patients arriving in A&E.
“You look around our A&E departments, but particularly at Worcestershire Royal and you will find the majority of our patients are frail and elderly.
“We cannot just solve this by discharging people in a timely manner – they are poorly and need extended care.
“We need to find long term solutions to this and it will require a strategic approach because at the moment it is not fair on the patients or on our staff.”
She added that the answer lay in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) which is currently out for public consultation which promises a more integrated approach to health care involving GPs, social services and the voluntary sector.