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Nurse shortage forces Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to shut beds

PUBLISHED: 10:16 01 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:30 01 January 2020

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has shut four critical care beds. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has shut four critical care beds. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant

A shortage of nurses has forced the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to close four of its critical care beds.

The Colney hospital has had to shut four of its 24 high dependency beds - used for seriously ill patients - because of the specialist staff shortage.

The beds, on the hospital's Gissing ward, were closed on Monday, with hospital managers informing doctors by email that they did not have enough nurses to keep them open.

A spokesman for the hospital said: "We have temporarily reduced the number of high dependency beds at NNUH from 24 to 20 in order to maintain national intensive care staffing standards.

"During this time, the high dependency unit area on Gissing ward will be repurposed for general surgical patients, which will help us to support our day case procedure programme and patients admitted as an emergency.

"We are actively recruiting specialist staff to reopen those four beds for HDU as soon as possible."

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Before Christmas, the hospital told staff to make the "least unsafe decision" following a huge rise in admissions.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital sent a "hastily worded email" to doctors after reporting a "major internal incident" due to a full accident and emergency department on Tuesday, December 17.

A document sent to staff said the hospital was "so overcrowded" that it was unable to find beds for patients.

The hospital has previously warned services were being pushed to "unrecoverable positions" following increasingly long waiting lists.

At its November board meeting, the hospital trust said more than 46,000 people were waiting for treatment - up 9pc on last year.

The hospital was forced to cancel "non-urgent operations" in a bid to save money as it was running nearly £20m in the red with five months still to go.

In September, the hospital had the worst waiting times in the country at hitting A&E targets.

Work is under way at the hospital to provide extra capacity, with a new ward block due to be completed early this year.

When the hospital opened in 2001, it treated around 60,000 patients a year in its emergency department - but that had swelled to 140,000 by 2018.

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