HOSPITAL bosses are moving elderly patients to solve a bed shortage caused by a ten per cent rise in emergency admissions.

The surge in the number of patients needing emergency care over the past 12 months has caused a severe bed shortage at Southampton General Hospital, resulting in planned operations being cancelled, with the knock-on effect of pushing up waiting times.

Between 2011 and 2012 emergency admissions were ten per cent higher than expected by August, a trend that continued throughout the year, and 134 operations were cancelled because there were no beds available for patients.

With the demand for beds only set to increase bosses want to implement a plan that will see 24 elderly care beds moved from ward G8 to the Upper Brambles ward at the Royal South Hants Hospital (RSH) for six months.

This will free up 22 surgical beds which can be used to treat patients who need to be admitted for planned procedures, helping to cut the number of patients facing last minute cancellations and allowing the hospital to hit its 18 week target from GP referral to treatment.

Several steps have already been made to boost capacity, including a five-month building project currently under-way to increase capacity in the emergency department, which on average sees 110,000 patients every year.

Hospital chiefs have also increased the number of nurse practitioners in the emergency department to treat less severe cases and avoid unnecessary admission.

But despite this there are still not enough beds available to meet the present demand.

In a letter to Hampshire councillors explaining the move Mark Hackett, chief executive of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This move directly benefits patients waiting for surgery as it releases 22 beds for this purpose so that we can ensure waiting times do not increase when there are high numbers of patients needing urgent care.

“With this transfer we will be able to continue providing high quality care for patients needing urgent and emergency treatment at Southampton General Hospital.

“For elderly care patients in medical beds transferring to the RSH means we can offer the same level of clinical supervision and care but in an improved environment in a community setting.”