The boss of Cornwall’s main hospital says that the health and care system will be in “absolute crisis” unless improvements are made in social care. Delays in getting people out of hospital after they have been treated are having a knock-on effect on all parts of Royal Cornwall Hospital including waiting times in the emergency department and ambulances having to wait.

Steve Williamson, chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT), said that whilst work was being done to address the problems there needed to be more done in the short term to solve the issues.

At a meeting of Cornwall Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee this week he said: “We have more and more patients in Royal Cornwall Hospital who don’t need to be there. The system wide transformation is, to my mind, the only viable way forward alongside moves to increase the social care capacity.

“But the transformations themselves will not be sufficient. We need to find ways to increase domiciliary and social care capacity otherwise we will be in an absolute crisis.”

The committee had heard that the pressures on the hospital has led to an increase in ambulance waiting times as well as the number of people having to wait on trolleys in the emergency department for more than 12 hours.

This has affected the hospital’s performance in responding to serious incidents such as heart attacks and strokes and councillors heard that the hospital’s stroke performance had gone from being one of the best in the country to falling from a grade A service to grade B.

And hospital staff warned that there has also been an impact on the mortality rate at the hospital, particularly among those who have been forced to wait for more than 12 hours in the emergency department.

Councillor Jayne Kirkham (Lab) called on the committee to urge the council’s Cabinet member for adult social care to write to the Government to seek urgent assistance to provide resources to improve the situation.

She said: “The NHS and social care and the people who work in the ambulance service are trying their best to do what they can in a really, really difficult situation. It is our job as politicians in the media to point out that these are good people doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. However, nobody seems to be listening.”

Cllr Kirkham added: “We need some help here from the Government, we can’t deal with this issue in social care on the budget that we have and in the constraints we have in Cornwall.”

The committee agreed to resolve –

Notes with great concern the impact on patients of current ambulance response times and ED performance and the direct impact on the Trust’s mortality position;

Notes that increasing number of acute hospital beds are occupied by patients who have completed their acute hospital treatment and could be discharged if there was sufficient capacity in community hospitals, social care, nursing homes or other community care;

Notes that trust and system wide actions are urgently required to reduce ambulance waits and improve flow in and flow out of acute hospitals;

Whilst the Committee hopes that current actions will have a positive impact on this situation, it urges our Integrated Care Partnership to continue to seek out further actions and to seek Government support accordingly;

Resolves to ask the Cabinet member to write to the Secretary of State to request further Government support for the development of a new resource plan to address systemic issues in Cornwall as a matter of urgency;

Asks for regular reports on progress at each committee meeting.