Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich saw the most challenging day since opening in 2001 earlier this month as the hospital found itself short of 122 beds.
Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe revealed the detail in a series of tweets covering pressures at the hospital, as last week it activated a Level 4 alert on the Opel scale – the highest there is – for four days in a row.
Opel Level 4 alerts mean serious pressures in a number of areas. Click below to see exactly what impact it has:
Patients were treated in corridors as ward space ran out. It’s a scene I saw in the hospital last winter as staff worked wonders but rushed off their feet:
Since Queen Elizabeth Hospital opened as a general hospital in 2001 replacing Greenwich District Hospital there has been substantial increases in the population of Greenwich borough.
This table covers six years from 2011 to 2016 as the boroughs population grew from 255k to 276k.
New building on site last winter saw 100 extra beds on site – yet demand appears to outstrip supply.
Urgent care is another area that has seen massive growth: March 2019 saw 9529 patients compared to March 2018 which had 8828.
A&E at Queen Mary Sidcup was closed under the Lib Dem and Tory coalition resulting in added pressure. It was replaced by an Urgent Care Centre which appears to have done little to alleviate demand.
This site focuses heavily on housing and Greenwich borough has seen one of the fastest increases in new homes not just in London but the entire country.
And that’s with housing targets being missed by some way. If targets were met pressures would be even more acute.
A large number of factors impact upon the crises, such as Central Government funding failing to keep pace with demand and a PFI contract now agreed by most to have been a disaster. Closing walk-in centres has hampered treatment options as has a shortage of GPs leading to ever more people turning to hospitals.
This year, for the first time, saw a sustained drop in the number of GPs since the 1960s as the number per 100,000 people fell from nearly 65 in 2014 to 60 last year.
The Conservatives this week promised 6,000 more GPs, though a previous pledge for 5,000 by 2020 has not been met.
In the local area we have seen sparse income from new developments allocated towards health. While sums from S106 and CIL would be far below central Government funding, it is still income that could assist and is not being spent.
Last year’s Section 106 allocation saw very little for health. It was allocated thus:
- Employment (GLLaB) – £770k
- Health – £31k
- Affordable Housing – £175k
- Transport – £546k
- Open space/parks – £10k
- Public Realm – £27k
- Education – zero
There are still large sums of unspent S106 income from previous years.
That’s money that has already come in. As for money allocated and as yet uncollected, it is greater still:
Though half of income is allocated to Woolwich Crossrail station and there are other commitments such as schools, it still leaves substantial sums which could be spent in health related areas and yet are not.
Still, those sums are vastly outnumbered by a shortfall from central Government funding.
Short term pressure
In the short term, the squeeze on health provision is likely to intensify. Numerous housing developments are completing as we speak. This block is in Woolwich:
These blocks are in Greenwich:
As regular readers will know, there’s plenty more in every corner of the borough.
And much planned in Bexley borough which now lacks A&E services. This is Bexleyheath town centre:
There’s also the “unseen” population increase as numerous family homes are converted to HMOs and bedsits. In many ways that’s harder to track and then target provision compared to new builds.
Though licensing of HMOs has been brought in across Greenwich borough, numbers so far registered are below target and so we just don’t know how many people are living in many areas.