Easing winter pressures: new GWH ward opens its doors to first patients

Written by Tony Millett on .

Chairman Roger Hill cuts the ribbon to open the new wardChairman Roger Hill cuts the ribbon to open the new wardGreat Western Hospital's new Dorcan Unit will provide ten additional beds for patients well enough to go home, but unable to do so while discussions around onward care are still taking place.


The ward opened its doors to its first patients on Thursday (February 1) - in time for what is usually one of the winter's busiest months.  The newly constructed, temporary ward sits in former office space.


By having a dedicated location for patients who are all but ready to go home or go to another care environment, the hospital will be able to free up beds for emergency patients needing admission - and so help reduce the patients waiting in GWH's A&E or emergency department.


The ward is expected to be in use until April, at which time a decision regarding its future will be made.


Rachel Palfreeman, Matron for Planned Care: “This current winter has been one of the busiest on record, with more patients than ever before needing to be admitted to hospital for specialist care and treatment."

“These extra beds will help create more space on our wards as patients, who no longer need to be cared for in a ward environment, can wait to be discharged in a safe and supported location.”

The ribbon was cut by Chairman Roger Hill at a brief opening event attended by staff from across the organisation.   Shortly after opening, staff in the unit began caring for its first intake of patients.

The new unit was made possible following an award of special government funds to help hospitals through winter.  GWH bid for and received £1.34million pounds of the £350million announced in the Chancellor's November Budget. 


They were advised their bid had been successful in mid-December and the money has to spent before the end of March.

The £1.34million was shared with Wiltshire CCG and also provides other winter measures including an extra 26 nursing home beds - and staff - to help the flow of patients ready to leave hospital wards.


The number of beds occupied at GWH in recent months has been well above the 'safe level' of 85 per cent of the hospital's normally available beds.  This is largely because extra or 'escalation' beds have been brought into service - which all need staffing and cost GWH more and more in agency costs.


In case it looks as though GWH is on its own as regards high bed occupancy, here's a graph tweeted by Patrick Leahy who is head of press and public affairs for one of the Royal Colleges - click on the image to enlarge it.  The Chrtistmas Eve dip is normal - no one wants to be in hospital on Christmas Day unless it is really essential.  And some people still want to close hospital beds...: