THE impact of cuts in health and social care is becoming extremely dangerous for patients with crucial hospital space being taken up by those ready to leave, campaigners have warned.
On one day last week more than 160 people were stranded on hospital wards despite being ready to be discharged.
The delays were caused by there not being enough beds in the community or support in their own homes had not been arranged.
Last Thursday Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals had 58 delayed discharges.
In recent weeks the numbers have risen to as high as 90 as staff battle to discharge patients as quickly as they were being admitted.
Every one of its intensive care and high dependency beds were also in use on that day meaning critically ill patients might have been forced to go to another hospital.
East Sussex Healthcare had 76 bed-blockers while Western Sussex Hospitals is averaging about 30 a day.
Campaigners have called on the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take action blaming a lack of investment on the pressures hospitals are facing
Sussex Defend the NHS member Carl Walker said: “It is clear the issue of delayed discharges is becoming increasingly problematic for patients in Sussex.
“This is the long term legacy of sustained NHS underfunding and 30 per cent national cuts to adult social care and it is becoming increasingly dangerous for patients.”
GMB union member Gary Palmer said hospitals were now experiencing ever-increasing pressures all the time.
He said: “We are not seeing the seasonal peaks and troughs once associated with discharges and issues in finding beds for patients.
“Front-line NHS staff will of course as they always do cope and carry on caring for us all, but the point is coming fast when that strain will be simply be too much and our concern is that the fall out when that happens will have irreparable consequences for both patients and staff.”
A Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals spokesman said: “Like many trusts across the country, delays in patients being discharged from hospital is a significant challenge for us.
We are working extremely hard within the hospital and with our partner health and social care organisations to improve the discharge processes which will help patients get the care they need in the most appropriate place in a more timely way.”
Brighton and Hove City Council said it was working more closely than ever with the NHS.
A spokesman said: “This means when we assess people’s needs it’s now done on a more holistic level to address people’s all-round health and social care issues.”
CAMPAIGNERS CALL FOR URGENT ACTION TO BE TAKEN
THE crisis facing the NHS in Sussex and across the rest of the country is well documented but it is becoming increasingly clear urgent action needs to be taken.
The tragic story of Mary Muldowney is an extreme example of where things can go wrong when hospital services are overstretched and under constant pressure.
In her case, a specialist intensive care bed was needed but the issue is affecting all wards and all areas of hospitals.
One of the main issues is bed- blocking – where patients are ready to be discharged but no bed is available for them in a community setting.
Alternatively there may be delays in arranging support and care for them in their own homes, so they have to stay where they are until that happens.
It emerged last month that hospitals across the county are operating at levels of capacity much higher than the recommended safe limit of 85 per cent.
With space and demand at a premium, just one bed taken when it shouldn’t be is an added unwanted pressure.
Hospitals are doing what they can to help ease the situation.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has opened a new ward in Newhaven specifically for older and more frail patients who need extra care before going home.
Clinical commissioning groups and councils are also working with hospitals and other NHS trusts and services to try to find ways to speed things up.
However campaigners say it is time the Government stepped in and took action to address the problem.
They say years of underfunding and shortages of nurses, doctors and other medical staff mean the NHS has reached crisis point.
New research has also found a possibility that cuts to health and social care could be linked to tens of thousands of “excess deaths”.
In 2015 there was an “unprecedented” rise in mortality in England and Wales A possible explanation behind the spike could be the “relentless cuts” to health and social care budgets, according to two articles published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Researchers said the increases in deaths could continue without urgent intervention.
There are also fears about the impact of controversial sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), which are setting out the development of health and social care services over the next five years.
In the Sussex and East Surrey region, hundreds of millions of pounds of savings will have to be found by the NHS.
With trusts already struggling to balance the books, many believe this will be impossible without leading to huge cuts.
A British Medical Association (BMA) investigation into the cost of funding STPs revealed Sussex and East Surrey would need £491.5 million in capital funding in order to deliver the plans.
BMA south east regional council honorary secretary John MacKinnon said: “From the off, STPs have been a real cause of concern at a time when the NHS is already at breaking point. There is a real risk these plans will be unworkable in reality or require drastic measures that could involve cuts to vital services in the area.”
The Government says it has invested millions in the NHS and councils and clinical commissioning groups have developed plans to try to ensure patients are given the support they need.
CORONER SAYS WOMAN COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED
THE death of Mary Muldowney sparked a horrified reaction when details emerged last week.
Ms Muldowney, from Crawley, suffered a brain haemorrhage after at least three hospitals refused to admit her for surgery because they had no intensive care beds.
A coroner ruled she would probably have survived if she had been given immediate surgery.
Ms Muldowney was admitted to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill on July 20 last year where doctors immediately suspected a bleed on the brain.
A CT scan carried out just over an hour later showed heavy bleeds and doctors requested an immediate transfer to a neurosurgical unit for surgery.
But three units – St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and King’s College Hospital in London – refused the request because no beds were available.
Inner north London coroner Mary Hassell said Ms Muldowney was eventually transferred to the Royal London Hospital and taken straight to theatre.
In a letter to NHS England she wrote: “Unfortunately, her pupils had become fixed and dilated in the ambulance and surgery did not save her.”
The coroner said evidence showed Ms Muldowney “could have been transferred, undergone surgery, spent time in recovery, and then an intensive care bed procured.
“If such a bed was still unavailable, she could then have been transferred to a different hospital, at least having undergone the time critical clot evacuation and aneurysm clipping.
“With prompt transfer and surgery, Ms Muldowney would probably have survived. In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths.”
NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said he was “very sorry” to read of the circumstances of Ms Muldowney’s death and a serious patient safety issue had been raised.