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50 more hospital beds needed in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 10:21 26 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:28 03 July 2010

Norfolk needs 50 more hospital beds to get through next winter, the boss of the N&N has warned.

During this winter, which was unusually busy, the N&N regularly ran out of beds and had to cancel operations - 256 in January alone, 93 in February and 29 in March so far.

Norfolk needs 50 more hospital beds to get through next winter, the boss of the N&N has warned.

During this winter, which was unusually busy, the N&N regularly ran out of beds and had to cancel operations - 256 in January alone, 93 in February and 29 in March so far.

Its chief executive warned that without extra action being taken the 973-bed hospital had needed 60 extra beds for the winter, 180 more for next winter, and even more in future years. But with a whole package of work being done, including reducing bed-blocking and 24 beds opening at West Norwich Hospital in October, the shortfall can be reduced. Anna Dugdale believes that central Norfolk needs 50 more beds - not for hi-tech acute hospital care but community hospital-style beds, outside the N&N.

Mrs Dugdale told Tuesday's council of governors meeting: “We need 50 more for next winter, but not here. It is step-down, on-the-way-home capacity rather than acute capacity for very sick patients. We need extra rehabilitation beds, or capacity in the community equivalent to that. We have made our position quite clear [to NHS Norfolk].

“We could build more and more acute beds and they would fill up, but they would not necessarily fill up with patients who need the hi-tech acute care we can provide.”

Alan Camina, a public governor and retired maths professor, said: “It seems to me we do need more acute beds.”

The hospital has freed beds up by getting drugs ready earlier for patients to take home, opening a discharge lounge where they can wait without taking up a bed, and putting more nurses in A&E and the emergency assessment unit at busy times. It is starting to plan its workload better by having estimated discharge dates, and is also studying the reasons why so many elderly patients spend more than two weeks in the hospital - typically 145 people at any one time.

NHS Norfolk, which pays for health services and runs community hospitals in central and west Norfolk, has recruited a new member of staff to take charge of winter planning, who will start next month. But it is reluctant to provide more beds. Chairman Sheila Childerhouse said yesterday: “At this point in time we haven't got evidence that we haven't got enough beds. There is a dialogue [with the hospital]. We need to work together to make the system work. We need to reduce admissions to hospital.”

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