Wednesday, 18 January 2017

London NHS winter meltdown as 6,000 patients a week left in ambulances outside A&E

Ambulances: 6,000 patients a week have been left outside A&Es Nigel Howard

New figures highlighting the extent of soaring winter pressures on the NHS in London emerged on Tuesday.
More than 6,000 patients a week are being left in the back of ambulances because A&E departments are too busy to admit them, the Standard can reveal.
This causes knock-on problems for London ambulance crews as they cannot respond to the next emergency — at a time when the service is receiving the greatest number of 999 calls in its history.
Today hospitals across the capital were braced for what is traditionally their busiest period of the year, when people finally seek medical help for illnesses contracted during the festive season. Health chiefs appealed to patients not suffering serious illness to seek help elsewhere.
Some hospitals were forced to declare “major incidents” overnight, according to junior doctors on social media.  One London medic tweeted on Tuesday: “No space in dept for even sickest [patients].”
The extraordinary extent of the pressures began emerging today when Northwick Park, one of London’s busiest hospitals, revealed that more than 700 people sought emergency help yesterday.
A further 382 sought help at Ealing, its sister hospital.
Dr Charles Cayley, Medical Director at London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Our Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centres at Northwick Park, Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals are extremely busy.
“Yesterday at Northwick Park Hospital alone more than 700 people attended our Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre and we experienced high numbers of ambulance arrivals, exceeding 100.
“We are asking the public to help our staff and visit ED for serious and life-threatening injuries and conditions only.”
NHS England’s London office said that “demand on services continues to be high” and urged patients not  to attend casualty with minor ailments. “A&Es should be used for life-threatening conditions,” a spokeswoman added.
In one week last month, ambulance crews were stuck outside Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow for a total of 278.8 hours.
There were also major problems at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich — where crews were delayed by 141 hours — and at Princess Royal in Farnborough, where the figure was 133.8 hours. 
In total, across London, 6,073 of London Ambulance Service’s 9,242 patient handovers for non-blue-light emergencies took longer than the 15 minutes allowed. Delays totalled 1,727 hours.
Today Barts Health, the UK’s biggest NHS trust, said its A&Es at the Royal London, Newham and Whipps Cross hospitals were “slightly busier than usual”.
A new system was being used to assess and treat patients to make sure they see a senior doctor as quickly as possible.
A Barts spokeswoman said: “To ensure safety our teams will always prioritise the treatment of those most urgently in need, and we therefore urge people before coming to A&E to consider instead visiting their GP, local pharmacy or walk-in centre where they may receive appropriate care sooner.”
NHS England (London) said: “Like elsewhere in the country, winter is a very busy time for London’s NHS and we want to thank all staff who worked to provide safe, world-class care to patients over the festive period.”
London Ambulance Service is receiving about 1,000 more emergency calls a week than expected, with December 9 to 11 being the three busiest days in its history for category A calls. As a result, it reached just 58.8 per cent within eight minutes — the target is 75 per cent.
The service suffered another computer failure for almost five hours early on New Year’s Day, forcing call handlers to rely on paper and pencil.
Managers said staff coped commendably — while having to deal with abuse from callers. Stephen Hines, an LAS clincial support manager, tweeted: “I wonder how many of the drunks who abused #ambulance or #control staff over the new year now have the balls to apologise?”
The most recent LAS figures on delayed handovers cover the week to December 11 — suggesting even more patients will have been stuck in ambulances for longer than 15 minutes as pressures intensified over Christmas and New Year.
LAS said four hospitals — King’s College in Denmark Hill, the Royal Free in Hampstead, University College in Bloomsbury and The Whittington in Archway — accounted for almost a quarter of all delays in the preceding 10 weeks.

Evening Standard





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