Patient safety

12.01.17

Over 20 overcrowded hospitals forced to issue ‘black alerts’ as winter bites

Overcrowding in NHS hospitals has become so severe that over 20 trusts have issued ‘black alerts’, meaning that they are unable to guarantee patient safety.

The highest level alert has led to 23 hospitals cancelling scheduled operations, treating adults in children’s wards and diverting patients to other hospitals in an attempt to admit new patients for treatment, the Guardian reported.

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS FT has even been forced to leave patients waiting in ambulances in a stark demonstration of the winter pressures that continue to afflict the service.

“Emergency departments are overflowing with patients, internal major incidents are being declared around the country and staff in emergency departments are struggling to cope with the immense demand being placed on their services,” Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the Guardian about the crisis.

“These crowded environments are stretching the clinical workforce to their limits and, more importantly, at times are unsafe for patients.”

Last week, the Nuffield Trust revealed that pressure on NHS services has been so intense that around a third of trusts warned the strain was beginning to affect patient care – with 50 out of 152 providers declaring alerts at the two highest Operational Pressures Escalation Levels (OPELs).

In December, seven of the 50 trusts who issued alerts were at the highest rating of OPEL 4, which is reached when “organisations are unable to deliver comprehensive care”. It now appears that this figure has at least tripled.

The extent of the crisis has led to cries from medical authorities for more health and social care funding, with the British Red Cross warning of a “humanitarian crisis” in NHS hospitals after it was forced to assist them over the festive period.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected these claims, instead suggesting that hospitals should downgrade their target to see and either admit, transfer or discharge patients within four hours so that it only applies to ‘non-urgent’ cases.

When giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on the financial sustainability of the health service yesterday, NHS England boss Simon Stevens admitted that the NHS is undergoing real pressures and scoffed at the suggestion that the government had given the NHS “more than it asked for”.

“I said to the select committee back in October that like probably every part of the public service, we got less than we asked for in that process, so I think it would be stretching it to say that we got more than we asked for,” Stevens argued.

Forebodingly, the NHS England CEO suggested that without government intervention, the pressures are set to get worse, particularly in 2018 when frontloaded funding runs out.

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Comments

Mike Roberts   17/01/2017 at 08:58

Alluding to numbers but what are the hospitals so we can get an idea of detail and spread

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