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Two NHS trusts spent a third of the year on highest ‘Opel 4’ pressure alert

Two NHS trusts spent more than a third of the year under extreme pressure and on the highest level of alert.

An investigation by the BBC found that 14 trusts in England spent 20 days or more on ‘Opel 4’ alert, with two trusts from Cornwall and Leicester racking up over 120 days each over a year.

Operations Pressure Escalation Levels (Opel) is a method used by the NHS to measure the stress, demand and pressure a hospital is under, with Opel 4 representing the high escalation level.

Opel 4 is declared when a hospital is “unable to deliver comprehensive care” and patient safety is at risk.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust has declared it spent 134 days on Opel 4 between September 2017-2018, the highest in England, responding to Freedom of Information requests sent by the BBC to all hospital trusts, with nearly 70% responding.

The trust has been in special measures for more than a year with the CQC finding problems with its surgery, maternity, end of life, and outpatient services, and particularly its children’s services.

The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, with the “busiest single-site emergency department in the country,” also spent more than a third of the year on the highest escalation level.

Great Western Hospitals spent 101 days on Opel 4 and the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust was found to be the fourth most under-pressure in England, spending 98 days on Opel 4 alert.

More than 40 trusts said that they did not declare a single day of Opel 4 between September 2017 and September 2018, but “rocketing demand” has seen NHS performance figures consistently drop in the run-up to winter.

Last month it was reported that 29 trusts and NHS boards had missed every single target this year, with one in five hospitals “consistently” failing to meet waiting times.


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