NEARLY 600 patients have had to wait more than 12 hours for a bed after arriving at Shropshire’s A&E departments, a health committee has heard.

David Evans, the accountable officer at both of the county’s Clinical Commissioning Groups, said it was “impossible to say” whether higher demand or a stretched workforce was the main cause.

However, he added that three consultants employed by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust are off or have left work recently.

Quality and Safety Lead Christine Morris told the Telford and Wrekin CCG governance board that 348 patients waited more than 12 hours in December and 226 more have done so far this month. Board member Adam Pringle pointed out that the admission total was 100 lower than forecast, “which suggests volume is not the issue”.

Updating the board, Mr Evan’s said performance at the Princess Royal Hospital and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital “continues to struggle”.

“It was a difficult Christmas period,” he said.

“The system was one of the worst-performing ones in the country. We saw increased pressure on the accident and emergency department despite putting in additional primary care over Christmas and the new year.

“We have seen heightened escalation across the West Midlands and beyond, but, nonetheless, it is not a satisfactory situation.”

Mrs Morris said 348 patients had waited more than 12 hours for a bed in December.

“In January, so far, the figure is 226,” she added.

“For each one of those patients who wait over that time, the trust is required to do a harm assessment.

“There probably needs to be a deeper analysis into those patients’ cases.”

She said the CCG kept in “daily contact” with senior nurses at the trust to ensure they were treating patients appropriately and learning lessons, including from patient feedback.

“It’s far from ideal,” Mrs Morris said, “but I think, given the challenges the trust has, particularly around their workforce, that they are doing the best they can in very difficult circumstances.”

Mr Evans added that one of the trust’s consultants has resigned recently, while another was due to go on maternity leave and a third is off sick.

“I’m sure that is a factor affecting performance,” he said.