All non-acute patients are being moved out of Staffordshire’s main hospital to make room for a surge in Covid cases.
Managers at the Royal Stoke University Hospital were aiming to transfer all patients apart from those needing acute care to community settings by today.
This could mean people receiving treatment at Haywood Hospital, in Burslem, care homes or in their own homes.
University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Stoke and County Hospital in Stafford, moved to the highest alert level – escalation level four – last week due to the worsening coronavirus situation.
As of January 5, there were 335 patients with Covid being treated at UHNM, including 36 in critical care. But medics expect these figures to rise due to the arrival of the new infectious strain of Covid-19 in North Staffordshire.
Level four means the hospital will start cancelling elective treatments, so resources can be diverted to Covid patients in critical care and other urgent areas.
Senior NHS and council managers have met to discuss how best to use capacity across the health system in North Staffordshire.
UHNM chief executive Tracy Bullock told BBC Radio Stoke: “It isn’t just UHNM planning for this surge. We had a significant meeting with all system partners – the council, clinical commissioning groups, North Staffs Combined, Midlands Partnership Trust – all the senior leaders got together and asked what does this mean for us, and do we have the capacity across the system, and how do we best use that capacity between us, to make sure as far as possible that patients who do not need acute care are not in UHNM.
“We hope that by Tuesday there are no such patients in our hospital. By Tuesday our patients will be simply those who cannot manage without acute hospital care.
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“It could be a care home, it could be a nursing home. It could be the Haywood Hospital, or it could be their own home, supported by community teams. There’s a whole range of places where people could go. There will be individual decisions based on individual patients’ needs.”
Ms Bullock says that reopening beds at community hospitals – such as those in Cheadle and Leek – is not feasible due to a lack of available staff – currently the single biggest issue restricting local NHS capacity.
She also explained that it is not practical to make use of the nearest Nightingale Hospital in Birmingham, due to the distance and the staffing issue.
The Royal Stoke workforce is due to be bolstered by 25 volunteers from Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leisure services.
Ms Bullock added yesterday: “As part of our plans and preparations for the forthcoming weeks, we continue to work with all our health and social care partners to ensure any patients who no longer require acute hospital care are discharged in a timely manner to either their own home, care homes or one of North Staffordshire’s community hospital.”