One NHS trust has spent more than two weeks taking emergency measures after demand skyrocketed since mid-September, while others left people waiting in the back of ambulances for more than a dozen hours.
The independent one learned that a patient in the West Midlands had spent 13 hours waiting to be handed over to Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust staff.
Gloucester Hospitals Trust declared its internal incident on September 19 and did not postpone it until October 5, while London’s Barnet Hospital took similar extraordinary measures on Monday due to high demand.
And at North Middlesex Hospital, staff saw more than 200 patients in the emergency room on Monday afternoon.
The report of an internal incident is intended to activate measures that support hospitals in the event of a sudden peak in demand and which should only be of short duration.
Such pressures are being felt across the country, and NHS executives are seriously concerned about what the coming months will look like as temperatures plummet. One said they hadn’t seen things this bad in more than a decade.
In Gloucestershire, patients in A&E had to see 20-hour beds and delays of eight to ten hours with an ambulance during the busiest times. The trust has reported three incidents due to pressure on the system since early last month. The last one was triggered on September 19th.
In a message to staff that day, the Trust said there was “a persistent increase in the number of patients” in need of care while many also waited to leave the hospital.
Workers were told to make sure all patients were screened and discharge plans were in place, escalating delays to supervisors. Additional beds have also been opened in the community to bring more patients out of the hospital.
On September 24, staff were told the pressure was continuing and asked to see if patients could be treated as an outpatient in the community to avoid the use of beds. A trust clinician said that some patients waited so long to be treated in the emergency room that problems were diagnosed late.
Although the hospital has canceled some routine surgeries, it said The independent one it had sustained cancer and other urgent surgeries.
Qadar Zada, Chief Operating Officer, said, “A combination of high demand, bed availability, the complexity of patients presenting, and the continuation of robust infection control measures in response to Covid-19 means our teams are working under significant pressure.
“While we have postponed some routine work in response, when capacity is limited, our priority is to make sure we don’t postpone cancer patients or other clinically urgent patients, which we have accomplished in that period.”
At North Middlesex Hospital in north London, more than 200 patients were waiting Monday to be treated simultaneously in the emergency room for the second time in recent weeks. A total of around 700 patients had to be examined by emergency teams that day, one of the highest total numbers ever.
At nearby Barnet Hospital, the Royal Free London Trust said its statement of an incident on Monday reflected high demand for urgent inpatient services, but services would continue as usual. A spokesman thanked the staff for their work and said the bosses would coordinate with colleagues in the area to ensure care.
The massive demand for health services is also affecting the emergency services. A briefing to West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) staff, seen from The independent one, said Monday that October 4th was one of the trust’s toughest days, “at a time when there are seemingly endless challenges.”
The message said: “Although demand has not been particularly high, the impact hospitals have on the ambulance service itself has been dire lately. The average waiting time at the Royal Shrewsbury is four hours with over two hours at the Worcestershire Royal. Another five hospitals exceeded an hour for the average handover.
“In two hospitals, crews waited over nine hours for handover and a poor patient was escorted by ambulance staff for over 13 hours while he waited for handover in Shrewsbury.”
The situation has not improved this week as WMAS lost the equivalent of 100 shifts to waiting outside of hospitals on Monday October 11th.
Nathan Hudson, director of emergency medical services, said, “There have been too many days like this in the past few months. We’re doing everything we can to get the crews home on time.
“We increased the number of cohorts to improve the situation, but accept that some crews are still significantly late at the end of their shift, for which I can only apologize.”