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Byline: LIZ HULL

HUNDREDS of operations at Liverpool's specialist neurological hospital had to be cancelled last year because of bed blocking, it was revealed today.

Over the past 12 months 3% of the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery's 49,000-bed capacity was lost because of the delayed discharge of patients.

It means that hundreds of nonemergency patients had their surgery postponed - up to 20 operations were cancelled last month alone.

Bed blockers are patients, mostly elderly, who are forced to remain on hospital wards because there is nowhere else for them to go.

Today hospital chief executive Kate Abendstern admitted it was too many.

She blamed pressures on the NHS and other Liverpool hospitals for the problem.

She said: ``It is many more than we would like, but it is just an indication of the general pressures on the system.

``Because we are a specialist trust, quite a lot of patients are referred to us from other hospitals, so strictly speaking they should go back to those hospitals when they have been treated.

``We have been finding it increasingly difficult to get them back because of the pressure the hospitals are under.

``We do keep them longer, so a lot are fit to go home at discharge but if we can't find intermediate care for them or social services support they do block beds.

``Non-availability of beds on wards and in intensive care does impact on operations.''

Mrs Abendstern said the centre had put a bed utilisation project in place to try and halt bed blocking.

She said: ``Some of it is about managing the patient journey better and being more efficient.

``For example, when patients come in for tests or minor procedures, instead of having them sitting in a hospital bed we have started getting them in on an outpatient basis.

``We have introduced a discharge lounge because we found patients were taking up bed space waiting for an ambulance or prescription before going home.

``We have also freed up beds by allowing neurophysiology patients, who need their brain patterns monitored, to take the equipment home instead of staying in hospital.''

MORE than 11,400 patients blocked beds at Merseyside's four biggest hospital trusts last year, it was revealed today.

They clogged up valuable beds at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust, Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust, Wirral Hospitals NHS Trust and St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust.

It meant that thousands of people due to undergo non-emergency surgery had their operations cancelled or postponed. …