Revealed: are St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals coping with winter pressures?

No beds were closed due to norovirus outbreaks
No beds were closed due to norovirus outbreaks
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How well is your hospital coping with winter pressures?

NHS England publishes weekly reports which reveal whether hospital trusts are struggling to manage during the colder months, based on key indicators.

This is how St Helens and Knowsley Hospital Services NHS Trust coped from January 7 to 13.

Bed Occupancy:

General and acute wards at St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals were 96.2% full on average, well above the safe limit of 85% recommended by health experts.

The occupancy rate has remained mostly unchanged since the previous week.

British Medical Association guidelines state "to ensure safe patient care, occupancy should ideally not exceed 85%". According to NHS Improvement, occupancy rates of 92% and above lead to significantly worse A&E performance.

The BMA also raised concerns about the number of available beds needed to cope with winter demands.

On average, St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals had 693 available beds each day, of which 666 were in use.

Of those, 28 were escalation beds - temporary beds set up in periods of intense pressure, often in corridors or day care centres.

According to NHS Improvement, a higher proportion of long-stay patients can impact the ability of hospitals to accommodate urgent admissions and manage bed capacity.

At St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals, 326 patients had been in hospital for a week or more , taking up nearly half of the occupied beds.

Of these, 118 patients had been in hospital for at least three weeks, making up 18% of all occupied beds.


A total of 692 patients were taken by ambulance to A&E during the week . That's a drop in emergency arrivals compared to the previous week, when 729 patients were brought by ambulance.

Delays left 150 patients waiting 30 minutes or more before they could be transferred - more than a fifth of all ambulance arrivals.

Of those, 38 unlucky individuals waited longer than an hour.

NHS Improvement guidance states that ambulance crews should hand patients over to A&E staff within 15 minutes of arrival.

Any delay in transferring patients leaves ambulances unable to respond to other emergencies, as well as risking their patients' safety.

Delays affected considerably fewer patients than the previous week, when 241 patients waited more than 30 minutes to be transferred.


Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is highly contagious. Outbreaks spread rapidly through hospitals, causing staff to close beds to prevent infection spreading.

But at St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals, no beds were closed due to norovirus outbreaks - both during the most recent week and over the previous one.