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Bed-blocking crisis hospital misses out on extra winter funds

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 02, 2013

By Lyn Barton

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A hospital which is continuing to lurch through the worst bed-blocking crisis in the Westcountry this year has failed to win any extra cash to tackle the problem.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a £500 million package of support for acute hospitals to manage looming winter pressures, and has now unveiled how the first half will be shared out.

However despite a stream of well publicised emergency alerts, which last month came perilously close to bringing Cornwall's healthcare system to its knees, the county's main hospital was not given a penny.

Andrew George, the St Ives MP and member of the influential Health Select Committee, said he would be writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to ask why the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) was overlooked. He said: "I am writing again to the Health Secretary to ask for the publication of the clear [criteria and evidence] basis on which this decision was taken. What risk analysis was undertaken? He needs to make clear how his department's decision will improve patient outcome."

NHS Kernow, the GP-led clinical commissioning group, had applied for around £6 million from the fund to alleviate winter pressures.

Last month, matters came to a head when dozens of operations were cancelled at RCHT as more than 50 patients fit for release could not be discharged because ongoing care was not finalised.

On one day, ambulances wasted a total of 15 hours waiting outside the hospital, while some patients in casualty waited more than ten hours for treatment.

Graham Webster, vice-chairman of the campaign group Health Initiative Cornwall, said he was shocked that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had failed to be allocated any additional funds to ease winter pressures.

"Without any financial support, this is only going to get worse," he said.

NHS Kernow's managing director Joy Youart said it was a matter of regret their application had not succeeded.

However, in announcing the allocations, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was aimed at improving patient safety.

"This winter is going to be tough – that's why the Government is acting now to make sure patients receive a great, safe service, even with the added pressures the cold weather brings," he said.

"But this is a serious, long-term problem, which needs fundamental changes to equip our A&Es for the future."

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