CUTTING hospital capacity further is now ‘unrealistic’ given the workload the NHS faces according to a senior doctor.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, said the only way to permanently ease the pressure on the county’s A&E departments would require significant investment into primary and community care which would take time and money.
He also poured cold water on claims doctors could be expected to significantly cut the number of people being admitted to hospital every year given a rapidly ageing population with more complex care needs.
Previous plans have centred on large cuts in emergency admissions by treating patients elsewhere which would allow bed numbers to be reduced.
The Joint Services Review, which started the hospital reconfiguration process in 2012, originally proposed a 17 per cent cut by 2015/16 but this has since been ditched and commissioners have yet to confirm if, or what, the new target is.
Over the last decade emergency admissions have risen by about 35 per cent in Worcestershire and were supposed to be cut by 7.5 per cent this year but are actually up between one and two per cent.
“Reducing emergency admissions in the future is going to be a huge challenge. We hopefully will be able to stabilise them by ramping up out of hospital care but it’s unlikely we are going to be able to significantly reduce them.” Dr Wells told the Standard.
“We now have one of the lowest hospital bed numbers per head of population in Europe and it is unrealistic to expect us to be able to reduce acute hospital capacity from now on, that’s why our CCG felt it was important to retain A&E and acute medicine at the Alexandra Hospital because there wasn’t the capacity elsewhere in the system.
“To reduce acute hospital capacity now would be a mistake until we have shown we can invest enough in community and primary care to take the work that’s needed.
“We do have to transform the system but it will definitely require significant investment into General Practice and the community sector and that’s the challenge for the politicians.”
Dr Wells added General Practice also needed help as they were unable to cope with the rising demand for appointments, which was having an impact on the numbers turning up at A&E
“General Practice is the sponge of the NHS as we have always soaked up the extra work as it comes along but the sponge is waterlogged now.”