Health chiefs have been quizzed on whether or not patients were waiting in hospital corridors on Teesside.

The question was posed at a meeting of the new University Hospitals Tees Group, covering both the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The question was posed as figures showed 296 patients had 12-hour waits in A & E in March this year – 23 for North Tees, 273 in South Tees, with most discharged while 37 needed a bed.

Group managing director Neil Atkinson said it was a “significant reduction” on the previous month. He added: “A lot of the waits are down to waits for beds, flow and patient stabilisation.”The Northern Echo: Dr Mike Stewart, chief medical officer at the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustDr Mike Stewart, chief medical officer at the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Image: LDR)

Non-executive director Rudy Bilous referred to media reports regarding patients waiting in corridors: “I wondered if we had any data on whether this was applying to patients in the group. Are patients waiting in corridors?”

Group chief medical officer Mike Stewart replied a “continuous flow” way of working had a very positive impact and reduced waits. A new urgent treatment centre (UTC), which opened at James Cook University Hospital in April, has made improvements.

He said: “There used to be patients in South Tees that would end up waiting in corridors but I think that isn’t happening currently. They’ve created an ambulance handover bay for receiving patients and they’ve created an area where patients are waiting for specialist opinion.

“There are not patients waiting for beds in the corridor at this time. There has been in the past, particularly in the midst of winter.The Northern Echo: Neil Atkinson, managing director of the University Hospitals Tees GroupNeil Atkinson, managing director of the University Hospitals Tees Group (Image: LDR)

“I’m saying the winter before when we had the really high spike in covid cases. Through this winter, with the changes to the use of the estate, we avoided that.”

Non-executive director Ken Readshaw said there had been a huge reduction in patients waiting 12 hours or more since last December when the current way of working came in.

Mr Atkinson said the most concerning statistics related to cancer, with the South Tees trust giving 55% of patients a confirmed diagnosis or starting treatment within 62 days, North Tees 65%, against a target of 85%.

He said: “All trusts are struggling with the delivery of this particular target. We do make in-roads into that and we are seeing improvements but it’s not where we would expect it to be.”

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He told how they were trying to speed up processes and were seeing improving trends, despite financial challenges. Meanwhile, in non-urgent care, both trusts were below national standards – an average of 65% of patients being treated within four months, with a target of 92%. “That’s impacted by things like strikes and patient choice,” said Mr Atkinson.

“I can’t understate the impact that some of the strike actions had on some of our referrals to treatment, and also this is a common problem up and down the country.”