Brighton’s biggest hospital has had to delay non-urgent operations after an unusually busy weekend.
The decision to cancel operations at the Royal Sussex County Hospital came as a “state of business continuity” was declared.
But cancer operations would still go ahead, chief operating officer Nikki Luffingham told the hospital trust board this morning (Monday 10 December).
The Royal Sussex usually had about 26 more patients than beds at any one time, she said, adding: “It went up to about 37 on Friday. We started the weekend with no beds and very few discharges.
“On Saturday in total we had 56 discharges. We would need something like 70 to 80 – and on a typical Sunday we would need 60 but yesterday we had 34 discharges.
“There are not the community facilities to cater for all patients. We don’t need the odd bed here and the odd bed there. We need a ward.”
She said that the Royal Sussex had already been affected recently by an outbreak of norovirus – in Bristol and Vallance wards – adding: “It seems to have been dragging on.”
She said that it was “terrible” to have to cancel operations: “No one wants to do that just before Christmas.
“It’s the worst winter for a long time.”
The problems were spelt out in an emergency conference call with other health organisations including the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, which is led by local GPs, the board was told.
Trust chairman Julian Lee said that there needed to be a partnership that delivered care in the community: “They know the problems – they’re doctors.”
Varadarajan Kalidasan, the director of medical education, said that it had surprised him to realise how few colleagues in the medical profession knew about the walk-in centre by Brighton station.
He said: “It’s no surprise that so few of the public know that it’s there. How many GPs, especially outside Brighton and Hove, actually know it’s there.”
Nikki Luffingham said that she had been told that an advertising campaign would raise awareness.
It is the second time that the trust – Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust – has declared a state of business continuity in less than three months.
Last time, in late September, acting chief executive Chris Adcock said that the repercussions on the whole hospital of operating in a state of crisis management were serious and far-reaching.
He said: “This disrupts the effective working of our speciality teams, overstretches everyone and leads to poor patient experience.
“Declaring the hospital to be in a state of business continuity … is designed to trigger a whole raft of urgent and focused behaviours internally and externally.
“It ensures our commissioners, ambulance service and neighbouring hospitals are aware that neither the health system nor the hospital are functioning as they should and that we need additional support and action from them.”