As the crisis worsens, families in Cornwall have offered £1,200 to take relatives out of NHS hospitals and free up space.
Disagreements between the local NHS trust and the government, according to NHS sources, resulted in a crucial delay of several weeks in declaring a critical incident in the county.
As part of a slew of emergency measures to address the county’s growing health crisis, families in Cornwall are being offered up to £1,200 to get relatives out of hospital.
To help the ambulance service cope with unprecedented demand, measures include commandeering a hotel for patients and recruiting drivers from the fire department.
Disagreements between the local NHS trust and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), according to NHS sources, resulted in a critical delay of several weeks in declaring a critical incident in the county.
The grant “provides support to people who have no clinical reason to be in hospital but may need some extra help while waiting for a care package,” according to a spokeswoman for the NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The grants are funded by the government’s national hospital discharge program, which was launched last year and is open to all NHS trusts in collaboration with charities.
“There are currently more than 650 people in Cornwall waiting for a social care package, and well over a hundred in our hospitals who are unable to be discharged because the care is unavailable,” Jayne Kirkham, a Labour councillor on the county council, said.
“At the county’s only major acute hospital in Truro, we regularly have lines of 20 or more ambulances.”
“To try to cope, the local NHS has commissioned a hotel and is paying people grants to encourage them to take their relatives out of hospital.”
A critical incident is the highest level of emergency that an NHS trust can declare, allowing it to get extra funding to deal with high demand on its services.
Last Sunday, the latest Covid-19 infection rate in Cornwall was 382 per 100,000 people, up from 350 seven days earlier.
Treatment backlogs, A&E demand, and GP waiting times are reportedly combining with coronavirus cases to put local NHS services under such strain.
The NHS Kernow CCG confirmed to me that all of the triggers were present.
UK news summary from Infosurhoy.
As the crisis worsens, families in Cornwall have offered £1,200 to get relatives out of NHS hospitals and make room.
Families in Cornwall offered £1,200 to take relatives out of NHS hospitals and free up space as crisis deepens
How Cornwall fell into a health crisis in six months
Cornwall has some of the lowest Covid-19 infection rates in the country, as it has had done since the pandemic struck in March 2020.
Infection rates in Cornwall stand at 2.8 per 100,000 people.
G7 weekend arrives with world leaders and about 20,000 officials flocking to the small tourist town of Carbis Bay, near St Ives. During the build-up to the event, Cornwall’s infection rate rises to 81.7 per 100,000, compared to a UK average of 77.4. In St Ives and Halsetown, where G7 takes place, rates of infection rise 2,450 per cent to 733.2 per 100,000 people. In a number of Falmouth council wards, where the world’s media and many officials are based, the rates rise by 2,000 per cent to up to 600 per 100,000.
Covid-19 rates of infection are now up 5,000 per cent compared to the weekend before G7. The rate of infection in St Ives stands at 905.7 per 100,000 people, compared to the UK rate of 93.7. Despite this local health chiefs dismiss the need for surge testing or additional measures. Cornwall’s director of public health Rachel Wigglesworth also denies any link between the rise in cases and the G7 Summit.
July and August
The easing of lockdown restrictions see tens of thousands of tourists flock to Cornwall, putting additional pressure on local NHS services.
53,000 revellers flock to Newquay for Boardmasters, the largest festival in the UK since the beginning of the pandemic.
5,000 cases are directly attributed to Boardmasters as infection rates soar in Cornwall again. Devon and Cornwall now account for eight of the top ten most infected areas in England.
The Government makes the south-west peninsula an Enhanced Response Area for five weeks, encouraging local people to wear face masks and socially distance in public places.
South Western Ambulance Service NHS trust is hit by New Year’s Eve levels of demand every day. Cornwall ambulance service commander Chris Griffen, says: “Incident numbers across the south west throughout September continue to be significantly higher than historical levels. Through September we experienced five consecutive days with daily incident numbers exceeding 3,000 or approximately a new incident every 25 seconds.”
All the triggers to declare a critical incident “had been met” according to Kernow NHS.
A critical incident is not declared until 21 October, but local NHS chiefs introduce grants of up to £1,200 to families who take their relatives out of NHS beds.
NHS Kernow commandeers a hotel in Newquay as in another attempt to ease pressure on hospital beds. Fire service is providing ambulance drivers as demand continues.
NHS facing pressure throughout the UK
Cornwall is not the only area to have declared a critical incident, even though it has suffered the longest period of sustained pressure across the UK.
Hospitals in Lancashire are reporting “severe pressures” on emergency services, and a critical incident remains in place at Blackpool Victoria Hospital as it deals with “huge” numbers of patients.
Last week, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said it was “extremely busy” after being hit by a 26 per cent hike in its highest priority incidents.
Earlier this month Southend Hospital in Essex said every bed is taken, fuelling fears a critical incident would be declared.
According to Krishna Ramkhelawon, the director of public health at Southend Council, the hospital was “almost at the limit of safe management”.
South Central Ambulance Service, which covers the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, has also warned it is facing “overwhelming” demand.
It said several factors were to blame including the backlog of treatment caused during the lockdowns, ambulance queues at hospitals and delays in people being able to see their GP.
At the end of October, it tweeted: “Please, please support us by using our services wisely, we’re here for life threatening illnesses and injuries.”
Ambulances have also been queuing up outside Wales’s largest hospital in Cardiff this week as pressure on NHS services mount. The Welsh Ambulance Service said handover delays remain a “serious and long-standing issue”.
The delays come as emergency departments and the ambulance service in Wales recorded their worst ever performance. Figures for October show fewer than 65 per cent of patients spent less than four hours waiting to be seen in A&E. The ambulance service responded to just half of immediately life-threatening calls within eight minutes.
Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said the service was facing “unsustainable pressures”, adding 15% of acute hospital beds are filled with people who are medically fit to leave hospital but are awaiting for care to be arranged elsewhere.
In October, NHS Lanarkshire in Scotland declared a critical incident as its three hospitals hit maximum capacity. The military is already providing additional support at University hospitals Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw.
The health board said occupancy the “sustained pressure” showed no signs of easing.
In Northern Ireland there are also concerns that some A&E departments will face closure due to mounting pressures.
The potential for closures has been described by health officials as “a real possibility”. At Craigavon Hospital in Portadown, ambulance services were diverted last Sunday and again on Monday morning, except in cases of patients facing life-threatening situations.
Concerns have also been expressed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust, which runs the Altnagelvin Area Hospital, Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital, Omagh Hospital.