University Hospital of North Staffordshire's A&E delays cost £50k-a-day
THE cost of reopening 80 hospital beds staffed by short-term agency nurses and locum doctors to cut accident unit queues is £50,000 a day.
The staggering daily bill means the University Hospital of North Staffordshire has spent £7 million since reopening the beds last May.
That is in addition to the original £7 million cost of reusing the beds on four wards within the City General site for the next five years to solve its looming beds crisis.
Hospital officials are recruiting 100 nurses after having to pay out tens of thousands of pounds a day on the high-cost agency staff at short notice.
But the costs will continue to rise as the hospital has only recruited around 30 of the replacement full-time nurses.
Hospital finance director John Maddison said: "Putting an additional unplanned 80 beds at short notice into the hospital has incurred over £7 million of extra costs over five months."
The 80 beds had been shut as part of moves to slash bed numbers by around 300 at the smaller superhospital. The extra beds had helped to improve A&E performance with more than 95 per cent of patients being admitted or sent home within four hours.
And the hospital's £1.76 million NHS penalty for missing A&E targets was also refunded.
But in the past week the accident unit has been hit by record numbers of patients and long hold-ups are back.
An average of 345 patients a day have flooded in since last Sunday – compared with 295 for the same week last year.
It means the hospital has been treating just 90 per cent of patients within the four-hour target.
Now officials are asking for even more cash to recruit an extra three consultants to bring the total to 18 to allow the unit to have senior doctors on duty round-the-clock for the first time.
The hospital has an annual budget of £400 million.
A&E clinical director Magnus Harrison said: "We will do everything we can this week to get the performance back above 95 per cent.
"The local health economy frequently urges the public to use other services if they aren't suffering an emergency. But if the message is unheeded we have no choice but to soak up the extra work."
Patients are being advised to use their GP surgery or local walk-in centres for treatment and to only use the accident unit in an emergency.
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of pressure group Healthwatch, said: "This cost is a price worth paying – but to have these numbers in A&E suggests something is failing in the community."