'We need more cash to pay for beds and staff'
OFFICIALS running Staffordshire's biggest hospital are preparing to plead for more cash to pay for extra beds and staff to cope with the expected fallout from the Stafford NHS scandal.
The University Hospital of North Staffordshire is expected to be told to take over more specialist services from surrounding areas following tomorrow's long-awaited Francis Inquiry report into failings at Stafford Hospital.
The document is set to recommend a downgrading of smaller hospitals, such as Stafford, where death rates were way above average and linked to neglect.
That would lead to more complex cases being diverted to major centres, such as the University Hospital.
The move would put extra pressure on the Hartshill hospital which is already millions of pounds in debt and failing to hit its accident unit targets.
At a meeting of North Staffordshire Pensioners' Convention (NSPC), in Hanley, yesterday, University Hospital chairman John MacDonald was asked by convention member Graham Gorton: "If you have to take all these cases from Stafford, Cannock and perhaps even Leighton (Crewe) how will you cope when your beds are 96 per cent full already?"
He replied: "We do not know the future for Stafford and the other smaller hospitals until we see the Francis report.
"But we cannot just take loads more patients here without extra capacity.
"That means we would have to have new facilities, beds and staffing levels."
The warning comes after a programme to cut hundreds of beds at the Hartshill centre had to be halted to cope with record numbers of patients admitted from A&E.
The NSPC meeting was called to update members on a 2010 survey where patients reported experiences of their care at the hospital.
Complaints included patients spending 63 hours on a trolley, poor food and a lack of privacy.
Chief nurse Liz Rix said: "The report made very difficult reading but it helped to alter the way we work and we have had tremendous changes, particularly since we moved to a single site.
"We are incredibly lucky to have so many specialist services in Stoke-on-Trent and the Care Quality Commission has found us compliant with all standards.
"Our mortality rate is the lowest ever and the performance on cancer is the best in the country. We have also gone 343 days without a case of MRSA."
The Sentinel revealed last month how the University Hospital is keen to take on more services from Stafford and Leighton.
NSPC committee member Ian Syme said: "The only way the University Hospital will take in these extra cases from elsewhere is for whole wards at the smaller hospitals to be taken over and run entirely by specialist staff from Hartshill."