Revealed: The full extent of rise in demand at our hospitals

Lord Prior is minister for NHS productivity. Photo: Bill Smith

Lord Prior is minister for NHS productivity. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

A health minister today demanded more money must go to GPs and community treatment services to take the strain off hospital, as the EDP launches a week-long look at the state of the region's NHS.

It comes as the Eastern Daily Press calls for a radical rethink about how we run and use our National Health Service.

As one of our most beloved institutions, the NHS boasts a brilliant frontline of caring staff who work incredibly hard to give the best treatment to their patients.

But their jobs are becoming increasingly difficult, with research by the EDP highlighting the unsustainable level of pressure facing NHS services in the region.

Today we reveal the increased load on Norfolk's acute hospitals as part of a week-long series of articles examining the state of our local health service.

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The local pressures are mirrored nationally, with the NHS as a whole having to make savings worth £22bn by 2020.

And health minister Lord Prior, once a chairman of Norfolk's biggest health trust and former chairman of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), believes the NHS must do something very different to be able to effectively treat people, and in particular, cope with the rising number of elderly patients.

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His comments, exclusive to the EDP, come as we show just how demand has increased on the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), James Paget University Hospital (JPH) at Gorleston, King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), and West Suffolk Hospital (WSH) at Bury St Edmunds over the last five years.

Our findings include:

•The number of patients treated at A&E departments has risen by 9pc in just four years.

•The number of non-emergency patients treated at our hospitals has risen by 5pc in the same period.

•The number of patients not discharged from hospitals despite being medically fit (bed-blockers) has nearly doubled (45pc).

•The number of non-emergency operations cancelled the day before or on the day has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

An example of those pressures came only last week when the JPH experienced 'unprecedented levels of demand', which threatened the hospital's ability to deliver services to a level acceptable to NHS England.

It occurred after 93 ambulances took patients to the hospital's A&E on a Sunday, 40 more than usual.

Lord Prior, who is minister for NHS productivity, said people should be treated at home and more resources should go to primary care (GPs and pharmacists).

'For patients with long-term conditions the most common theme is that the system is not joined up enough,' he said. 'One of the ways to tackle the growing demand is to treat people at home. In future we need to see much bigger GP practices that are open for longer with nurses, occupational therapists, and pharmacists.

'That will make it easier for people to access GP services which means they won't need to go to hospital.'

Alex Stewart, chairman of Healthwatch Norfolk, said the government needed to 'wake up and smell the coffee' and added the NHS needed to be less politicised for real progress to be made.

'The NHS will requires a radical redesign,' he said.

'I do think a little more candour from bosses is in order as people can accept that mistakes are made.

'If we could depoliticise the NHS more, and make it less about hitting targets and ticking boxes, we could focus on providing individualised care because every patient is different.'

•Have you got a health story? Email

•The EDP will be looking at the state of our NHS every day this week

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