NHS services in Ayrshire and Arran have confirmed they are experiencing “high demand” for acute services after announcing the closure of several wards.
Chief executive for the services, Claire Burden, confirmed that patient occupancy at University Hospital’s Ayr and Crosshouse had “exceeded 100%”.
The announcement comes after STV News revealed on Tuesday that ward closures within the services due to a lack of funding could see the loss of over 80 beds in the next three weeks.
Joanne Edwards, director of acute services at the NHS, said the reduction in beds would be “safely planned across the system.”
Claire Burden said: “Over the last 15 days, our hospital occupancy has increased with occupancy exceeding 100%.
“As a result, our already crowded Emergency Departments have become even busier with patients waiting for admissions into the hospital.
“Additionally, the waiting times to access our emergency departments are long, with some patients arriving by ambulance waiting outside the hospital when their conditions are not critical.
“This increase in congestion has been created through the steady need for new emergency admissions against a backdrop of a reduced daily discharge rate. Our Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) are working to reduce our delayed transfers of care, which accounts for around 12% of all inpatients at this time.
“While more than 150 new patients are in the emergency department and the assessment unit, all needing to be assessed for their onward care plans. We also have 348 patients whose length of stay is now more than 14 days. This is at least 100 patients more than our system is able to cope with.
“Therefore, we are focusing our efforts on those new patients starting their acute pathway, making sure specialty patients get into the hospital as they need, along with the review of patients whose length of stay is more than 14 days.”
A staff member from Ayr hospital, who does not wish to be named, said the service is already struggling with patient capacity and the loss of further beds will “only make things worse”.
“The NHS is already on its knees”, they told STV News.
“In upwards of 80 bed spaces are due to close in the next few weeks, which will result in even longer wait times at A&E.
“Ambulances currently queue outside, patients are waiting to be admitted and due to bed shortages we already struggle to admit these patients.”
Claire Burden admitted the decision to get rid of beds used during the pandemic “will come under pressure” as the service continues to struggle.
She added: “In response to these pressures, medical, nursing and Allied Health Professions (AHP) staff from across our hospital sites are working extremely hard to support the daily decongestion of our Emergency Departments, Combined Assessment Units and wards.
“Our focus is to create a safer hospital for all patients and all staff. We want to ease the internal pressure for new admissions, so that anyone arriving at our Emergency Departments and Combined Assessment Units can be seen without delay.
“I appreciate at this time that our ambitions to close the historical Covid-19 beds, as well as unfunded beds, in our system, will come under greater pressure.
“However, I would like to reassure our staff and patients that there is no planned or forecast reduction in our core hospital bed base at University Hospitals Ayr or Crosshouse. We need both hospitals and our core funded bed base to deliver the care and services our population need.
“We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and professionalism offered every day by every staff member, and I would like to thank the many staff who have already re-arranged or may need to re-arrange the way they work to support other parts of our system.
“This helps us to reduce as many workforce gaps as possible to ensure patient safety.
“We remain determined to help make a difference in reducing long-standing pressure points in our system.”
Scottish conservative south MSP Sharon Dowey: said: “This provides a terrifying snapshot into the chaos that is engulfing hospitals in NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
“Dedicated frontline staff and suffering patients are paying the price for Humza Yousaf’s failure to get a grip of the crisis in our NHS.
“His flimsy recovery plan simply has not cut it and this has created an unbearable strain for health services in Ayrshire.
“We know that these excess delays lead to tragic and avoidable deaths. Cutting beds even further will only risk even more lives being lost.
“This situation is absolutely frightening and the buck stops with Humza Yousaf. He must urgently intervene and safeguard critical services in NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
“Humza Yousaf must urgently intervene and prevent the closure of critical services at Ayrshire hospitals.”