More beds will improve A&E waiting times at Peterborough City Hospital, health boss says

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More beds will be introduced over the next year, while ‘virtual wards’ will also create more capacity

More beds will be made available at Peterborough City Hospital, reducing A&E waiting times, a regional health boss has said.

Stacie Coburn, a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care Board (ICB) executive, said that additional beds will be added to the hospital over the coming year, while “virtual wards” will also increase capacity.

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Addressing Peterborough City Council (PCC) councillors at a health meeting this week, she said that 20 of the 62 extra beds the hospital has already been promised are still to be delivered, while another 72 will be added next year.

Stacie Coburn addresses Peterborough City Council councillorsStacie Coburn addresses Peterborough City Council councillors
Stacie Coburn addresses Peterborough City Council councillors
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Over 400 12-18 year olds in need to a home

Meanwhile, Peterborough’s virtual wards – also known as “hospital at home” – are expected to create an extra capacity of 164 beds, she said.

Being treated from home may involve staff visits for procedures such as blood tests, the NHS says, but also remote technology such as apps and wearable medical devices. Their use is becoming more common across the service, it adds.

A&E 'appears at breaking point'

Ms Coburn was quizzed about the ICB’s plans to reduce waiting times by Cllr Ishfaq Hussain (Conservatives, Dogsthorpe), who said at the meeting that Peterborough City Hospital’s A&E ward already appears to be at “breaking point”.

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“On a recent visit to A&E, I walked through and there were people waiting in the corridors and in beds outside in corridors,” he said. “It looked like it was overwhelmed and at breaking point already and that’s before we get to the winter months when demand will increase.

“What are we going to do if there’s a mini-pandemic or a flu pandemic?”

Ms Coburn said that the planned extra beds and extra capacity “will make a big difference” to waiting times and the smooth running of A&E services.

Plans will also be made to reduce GP waiting times

She was also asked about GP waiting times by Cllr Brian Rush (Peterborough First, Stanground South), who said that this is one of the issues most frequently raised by residents.

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“There has been a national primary care plan and all systems have been asked to respond to that,” Ms Coburn said. “So in November we will be taking a series of plans to the ICB for agreement that will set out what we’re going to do to address the 8am rush to improve capacity across General Practice.”

The ICB is due to meet on Friday, 10th November to discuss these plans and how best to implement them in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Peterborough 'doesn't get its fair share of the cake'

Ms Coburn also said that recruiting and retaining staff remains a significant difficulty in the healthcare sector due to low wages, while PCC’s director of public health Jyoti Atri said that a lack of government funding is holding it back.

“Peterborough doesn’t really get its fair share of the cake, it’s fair to say,” she told councillors. “We get £55 per head in the public health grant and that compares with our CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) comparators, who get £73 per head.

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“We think that that doesn’t really reflect needs and the fact that the population has grown, particularly among children and young people, and it doesn’t reflect the fact that we have high levels of deprivation.”

PCC’s public health grant, which comes from central government, was £11.9m this financial year, Ms Atri said; £4m below what the council believes it needs.

It is ring-fenced for public health functions which include school nursing, drug use prevention, sexual health and contraceptive services and NHS health checks.

Ms Atri added that the relative lack of funding is “certainly why we’re not able to offer the number of health checks we’d like to offer” and why local health authorities continue to struggle with effectively promoting smoking cessation.

She added that this is something the sector is keen to address.

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