HARSH winter conditions are causing significant pressures on beds and staff at the Great Western Hospital, according to chief executive Nerissa Vaughan.

Ms Vaughan will deliver a report to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week during which she will talk about the winter pressures on the Trust and the challenges currently being faced.

In the report, she says: “Over the past two months, the Trust has been experiencing significant winter pressures. This pressure is being particularly felt at the GWH where extra demand has created significant pressures on beds and on our staff.”

Ms Vaughan said the Trust is not alone in experiencing a busy winter, with all neighbouring Trusts and the Ambulance Service experiencing similar challenges, some of which are not directly within their control.

“As is usual at this time of year, there has been a large increase in the number of patients seen in the Emergency Department and needing to be admitted, but this year those numbers are much higher.

“These patients are increasingly frail older people with complex medical and social needs staying in hospital much longer. Over the course of the winter, despite the extra demand we have managed to maintain our four hour wait performance as a Trust.

“On Friday, heavy snowfall hit the region. The Trust has clear plans in place each year to manage the impact of adverse weather and is pleased to report relatively minimal impact over that weekend.”

As well as the weather conditions, Norovirus has also caused problems for many hospitals around the country, although the GWH has been coping well, said Nerissa.

“Nationally over a million people have been affected by the Norovirus bug this winter which has hit the population much earlier than in previous years. With neighbouring hospitals shutting wards in some cases, other hospitals are finding it difficult to cope therefore putting more pressure on us.

“We have managed Norovirus well in comparison to some of the problems in other hospitals. We have not had to close a ward in well over a month but we have closed bays in some areas due to the bug.

“At this time of year, staff sickness tends to increase and the Trust has had challenges in some key areas together with difficulties in permanent nurse recruitment in the acute medical areas.

“Not all of these issues are within our immediate control but staff continue to work tirelessly to try to reduce the pressures that typically build up over weekends and ensure our processes are as tight as possible.

“We appreciate the efforts staff continue to go to over what has been, and will continue to be, a very busy winter.”