Bed occupancy rates in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust were above safe levels for most of the winter period, which some NHS leaders described as the most challenging they had experienced. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s wards were 89.3 per cent full on average during the health service’s winter period, which runs from November 20 to March 4, well above the recommended safe limit of 85 per cent. The trust only managed to meet the 85 per cent target on 10 days during the entire winter period.

The winter crisis also impacted patients in need of emergency care, who often experienced long waits for treatment in A&E departments. NHS England says no patient should have to wait longer than 15 minutes in an ambulance before being transferred to A&E. But figures show 1,102 emergency patients in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust waited between 30 and 60 minutes before they were handed over and 288 waited for at least an hour. In total, 11,871 people arrived by ambulance during the winter period. The waits, known as handover delays, can be due to ambulance queues or slow processing at hospitals, and can have the knock-on effect of delaying paramedics being despatched to future emergencies.

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