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HOSPITAL PROBLEM WILL NOT GO AWAY; The ECHO revealed yesterday how patients at the Royal Hospital are waiting up to 12 hours on trolleys. Health reporter LIZ HULL investigates why.

Byline: LIZ HULL

FOR the people of Liverpool, waiting hours on trolleys in hospital corridors is not something new.

Hospitals in the city work at almost 100% capacity all year round.

Yesterday's outburst by one of the Royal's top consultants came as the accident and emergency department reached crisis point once again.

But today health bosses in the city stressed that the Royal should not be blamed for the chaos in casualty.

They stressed that patient backups in the hospital are a symptom of failings further down the NHS chain and the lack of adequate community and GP services in Liverpool as a whole.

David Wood, director of the Future Hospital's Project, is carrying out a major review of acute hospital services in Liverpool.

He said the problems go much deeper than the hospitals themselves.

"The problem in Liverpool is that there are not enough alternative options for people, especially intermediate care for the frail and elderly, who go into accident and emergency and often need to be admitted, " said Mr Wood.

"There are also issues to do with primary care support - we do not have enough GPs in the city which is also adding to the pressures reported yesterday by the ECHO."

Mr Wood said that hospitalisation rates in Liverpool are 50% above the national average and an extra 3,600 more people are admitted to casualties across Merseyside than in other conurbations every year.

"Liverpool people use hospital services to a far greater extent than similar populations in other cities, " he said.

"We need to look into why that is, as well as modernising the hospitals themselves.

"To some extent the problems in accident and emergency have developed over the last decade because we haven't had a strategic planning approach and each hospital has had to look after its own facilities.

"It is only now that we are beginning to look across the whole health service to find better ways of doing things.

"My aim is to reconfigure services in the long term to change the patient experience which will hopefully see an end to the pressures experienced in casualty departments at the Royal and Fazakerley.

"We will find solutions to it, but it is a very big job and will won't be done overnight."

Meanwhile, bosses at the health authority today moved to reassure people that they will be able to cope if a winter flu epidemic strikes.

Derek Campbell, director of finance at Liverpool Health Authority, agreed with Mr Wood that problems further down the health service chain manifest themselves in accident and emergency.

But he stressed that the health authority were investing in alternative health support to avert a winter crises.

"The staff and the trust management at the Royal are working very very hard, but unfortunately it is accident and emergency that bears the brunt of problems which originate earlier down the chain, " said Mr Campbell.

"We are looking at alternatives to people being admitted to hospital beds, especially extra investment in intermediate care.

"That includes a range of measures, such as paying for more beds in nursing homes and emergency response teams, so that when someone calls ambulance or a doctor teams of medics can go out to their home to treat them instead of going to hospital.

"So far pounds 4.5m has been invested in intermediate care this year and a good chunk of that will be held back for opening more beds and bringing in more emergency response teams over the winter months.

"Last year we also put about pounds 1m into the Royal for 20 extra beds at their emergency admissions unit to try and ease the pressure."

CAPTION(S):

DAVID WOOD: 'The problem in Liverpool is that there are not enough alternative options for people'
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2001
Words:627
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