NHS under pressure: hospitals in Greater Manchester busy with more than nine out of 10 beds taken, data shows

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NHS trusts across Greater Manchester have bed occupancy levels well above 85%, which is widely considered to be the level at which hospitals can run safely.

Hospitals in Greater Manchester remain dangerously busy as the NHS continues to face major pressures this winter, the latest data shows.

NHS England figures analysed by NationalWorld show hospital trusts across the city-region had bed occupancy levels of more than 90% in the latest week for which statistics are available. It is widely considered within health that hospitals with more than 85% of their beds full are concerningly busy and safety concerns for patients are raised. NationalWorld’s latest analysis shows that in the latest week only nine out of 130 trusts in England were below the 85% threshold.

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One trust in Greater Manchester has also had times when it was 100% full with no beds available for new patients - and this is not the first time this winter that has happened there either.

What does the latest data show for hospitals in Greater Manchester?

The latest NHS England data, which covers the week up to 15 January, shows that hospitals across Greater Manchester were running with more than nine out of 10 beds occupied. This is above the 85% level which is widely held to be a safe level of busy for trusts to be operating at.

The issue of a lack of free beds for patients was most acute at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust in the latest week of data, with an average occupancy level of 99.9%, with time in the seven-day period when it was 100% full. WWL has struggled to get beds free for new patients throughout January, with a 100% average occupancy rate in the previous week (2 to 8 January) as well.

NHS hospital trusts across Greater Manchester were running close to full in the latest week of data. Photo: AdobeStockNHS hospital trusts across Greater Manchester were running close to full in the latest week of data. Photo: AdobeStock
NHS hospital trusts across Greater Manchester were running close to full in the latest week of data. Photo: AdobeStock | VILevi - stock.adobe.com

Other hospitals in Greater Manchester, though, were not far behind in the latest week of data. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust had an average bed occupancy level of 98.4%, while at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust it was 97.3%.

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Bolton NHS Foundation Trust had an average of 94.7% of beds occupied, while at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust 92.4% of beds were taken on average and at the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust it was 91.5%,

WWL was the third busiest trust in England in the latest week and it was also higher than the England average, along with the Stockport and Tameside and Glossop trusts.

What has been said about the data?

NationalWorld analysis of the data shows that across England the average bed occupancy rate for the latest week (ending 15 January) was 95.7%. The data is based on a snapshot taken each day at 8am. The latest figure is a slight reduction on the nationwide average level of 96% of beds occupied in the previous week (up to 8 January).

The pressure on the NHS comes as a damning report published by the House of Lords declared a national emergency in healthcare, saying “low capacity in hospitals and social care has left the emergency health services gridlocked and overwhelmed, unable to provide safe care”.

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In its latest weekly winter stakeholder briefing the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership said the NHS is facing a difficult winter as pressure has been building on the health service throughout the year. It said that “a rise in seasonal illnesses places pressure on an already stretched system”.

The document also warned: “Winter is expected to be difficult for many across the city-region, as the costs of energy, food and other bills rise.”

And it said that on 16 January there were 844 people in hospital in Greater Manchester who were medically fit for discharge.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures the NHS is facing following the impact of the pandemic and are working tirelessly to ensure people get the care they need, backed by up to £14.1 billion funding for health and social care over the next two years.

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“We have announced up to £250 million of additional funding to immediately help reduce hospital bed occupancy, alleviate pressures on A&E and speed up much-needed ambulance handovers, and are boosting call handler numbers for NHS 111 and 999 to reduce answer times.

“This is on top of the £500 million Discharge Fund to speed up the safe discharge of patients who are medically fit to leave hospital, and the NHS creating the equivalent of 7,000 more beds as well as establishing 24/7 data driven system control centres in every local area to manage demand and capacity.”

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