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The Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust has agreed on plans to draft in fire crews to take patients home in a bid to prevent overcrowding and bed-blocking.

Under the arrangement, the fire service will be used to bring vulnerable patients home, settle them and check surroundings are safe, officials said.

Last winter local ambulance services warned that the number of ambulances left queuing outside its hospitals was a “catastrophe”.

The previous winter saw concern about a number of deaths, including that of a woman who died after 35 hours on a hospital trolley at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

Earlier in the year, it was revealed that the Trust needed an extra 208 beds to cope with projected winter demands, and that plans to introduce 69 news beds in refurbished wards would not be completed until next March.

Under the plan, the fire service would “support safe early discharge of patients who may need additional help to settle them back home” but did not require any in-home care.

The fire service has agreed to provide the service for six months free, while it establishes how much help the trust needs.

A spokeswoman told Health Service Journal: “The service will be aimed at the most vulnerable to ensure they are safe in their own homes. Patients who can walk and possibly some wheelchair users will all benefit from transport home by uniformed fire service staff who are fully trained in identifying risks in the home and any required additional agency support.”

A trust spokesman said: “This offer of additional support from our local fire service could help to improve our discharge processes and help our efforts to ensure patients who are medically fit for discharge get home safely, freeing up beds, improving patient flow, reducing waits in our emergency department and improving ambulance handover times.”

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