Council paid ‘golden hellos’ to free up beds amid warning NHS crisis will continue

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.Picture: ANTONY KEL

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The pressure on the NHS over Christmas meant Norfolk County Council bosses had to pay 'golden hellos' to care providers to take in patients to free up beds.

And the director of adult social care at County Hall said high levels of illness are likely to mean demand on health services remains high for the next three weeks.

All three of Norfolk's hospitals were completely full at points over the Christmas and New Year period.

Between December 24 and January 7, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) hit 100pc bed occupancy twice, with all other days being in the 80pc and 90pc range.

At the James Paget Univeristy Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, bed occupancy reached 100pc 11 times - including being completely full between December 31 and January 7.

Executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council James Bullion. Picture Norfolk

Executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council James Bullion. Picture Norfolk County Council - Credit: Archant


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At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn capacity was reached four times in the same period.

And, at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's Adult Social Care Committee today, the service's director James Bullion revealed the knock-on effect the NHS pressures had on the council.

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He said: 'Despite extensive planning to reduce the level of inpatients before Christmas, we have seen excessive pressures and lack of capacity and staffing in some places, that's led to a significant increase in the number of referrals to the local authority from the NHS.'

He said some social workers had been taken out of their community settings to help in hospitals.

And he said the council had paid 'golden hellos' to care providers for them to take in patients from hospitals.

Mr Bullion said: 'We have had to increase the financial incentives for care providers so they will take people with a 'golden hello' payment for those coming in at weekends or overnight.

'We have worked with care providers so they understand the gravity of the situation for hospitals and patients' families.'

Mr Bullion said the number of delays to transfer of care was likely to have increased by about 200 days over the Christmas period.

And he said the council's emergency duty teams, which responds to social care referrals outside of normal office hours, had more than 350 calls - up by 250 on the same period last year.

Mr Bullion said it was too early to say what the added pressure and spending would have cost.

He said: 'We don't yet have the impact on the service's budget, but it will have an impact in due course.'

Mr Bullion added that he wanted to thank the council's staff and care providers for going 'above and beyond' over the festive period.

He said: 'Our response was to increase overtime and weekend working.

'I know that disrupted family life for lots of our staff and I would like to thank them.'

But he warned there is likely to still be further pressures.

He said: 'The situation is not over. There are likely to be very high levels of illness and the pressures will continue for the next three weeks.'

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