Revealed: are West Hertfordshire Hospitals coping with winter pressures?

How well is your hospital coping with winter pressures?

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:51 pm
Revealed: are West Hertfordshire Hospitals coping with winter pressures?

NHS England publishes weekly reports which reveal whether hospital trusts are struggling to manage during the colder months, based on key indicators.

This is how West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust coped from January 14 to 20.

Bed Occupancy:

Revealed: are West Hertfordshire Hospitals coping with winter pressures?

General and acute wards at West Hertfordshire Hospitals were 93.5% full on average, well above the safe limit of 85% recommended by health experts.

The occupancy rate has remained mostly unchanged since the previous week.

British Medical Association guidelines state "to ensure safe patient care, occupancy should ideally not exceed 85%". According to NHS Improvement, occupancy rates of 92% and above lead to significantly worse A&E performance.

The BMA also raised concerns about the number of available beds needed to cope with winter demands.

On average, West Hertfordshire Hospitals had 706 available beds each day, of which 661 were in use.

Of those, 47 were escalation beds - temporary beds set up in periods of intense pressure, often in corridors or day care centres.

According to NHS Improvement, a higher proportion of long-stay patients can impact the ability of hospitals to accommodate urgent admissions and manage bed capacity.

At West Hertfordshire Hospitals, 315 patients had been in hospital for a week or more , taking up nearly half of the occupied beds.

Of these, 93 patients had been in hospital for at least three weeks, making up 14% of all occupied beds.


A total of 672 patients were taken by ambulance to A&E during the week. That's a rise in emergency arrivals compared to the previous week, when 623 patients were brought by ambulance.

Delays left 118 patients waiting 30 minutes or more before they could be transferred - almost a fifth of all ambulance arrivals.

Of those, 51 unlucky individuals waited longer than an hour.

NHS Improvement guidance states that ambulance crews should hand patients over to A&E staff within 15 minutes of arrival.

Any delay in transferring patients leaves ambulances unable to respond to other emergencies, as well as risking their patients' safety.

The previous week, 124 patients waited more than 30 minutes to be transferred.


Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is highly contagious. Outbreaks spread rapidly through hospitals, causing staff to close beds to prevent infection spreading.

This week, hospital staff at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust were forced to close 24 beds when the norovirus problem was at its most severe.

The previous week, no beds were closed due to outbreaks of the virus.