Royal Cornwall Hospitals declare trust-wide ‘black alert’

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has had to cancel operations and declare a black alert due to pressure on its services, in another sign that unprecedented demand on the NHS is continuing.

The trust, which covers St Michael's in Hayle, West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and The Royal Cornwall in Treliske, said it was "extremely busy, with difficulties admitting and discharging patients".

At one point the trust said it had 70 patients taking up beds who could be discharged or transferred out of hospital if adequate care arrangements were available, however the number has now been reduced to five.

The trusts busiest period saw some patients having to stay on trolleys for up to eight hours. Eighteen operations were cancelled on Wednesday and some staff holiday has been suspended.

A spokesman for the trust confirmed to NHE that they are on black alert, also known as a significant incident, the highest level of alert. The trust expects it to last between 12 and 24 hours. The measure applies to the whole health and social care system in Cornwall.

A statement from the trust said: "Royal Cornwall Hospitals are extremely busy right now with difficulties admitting and discharging patients.

"To ensure that we can continue to provide high quality and safe care, the health and social care partners in Cornwall have declared a significant incident to respond to pressure on services.

"To help doctors and nurses focus on the sickest patients please only use the Emergency Department in Truro if you are in urgent need of care and attention. Alternative support and services are available by calling NHS 111."

Dr Iain Chorlton, governing body member at NHS Kernow, said: "The demand over this winter has increased significantly and we've all found it difficult to manage.

"Black alert allows us to focus resources to make sure patient safety isn't compromised."

West Cornwall MP and member of the Health Select Committee, Andrew George, believes the problems are only going to get worse.

He said: "We cannot carry on like this. The further west you go the more precarious the situation. There is no other A&E service that those in the far west can go to.

"When emergency services like this are closed, blue light ambulances cannot take patients to the north, west or south, there is only a very long and potentially life threatening journey to the East if the front doors at Treliske are shut.

"Years of cutting hospital beds, the revolving door of perpetually changing executive chiefs of the Trust and the burden of the massive legacy debt caused by underfunding have left our only acute Trust in this position.

"With too few hospital beds and not enough nurses on the wards, what we see happening today will happen again and again unless someone gets a grip."

(Image source: Paul Armiger/PA)

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