Patients waiting to be admitted were forced to wait for up to five-and-a-half hours on Friday night as 23 ambulances queued outside a hospital’s A&E department.
Queen Alexandra (QA) Hospital in Portsmouth, whose A&E department has previously been described by the Quality Care Commission as ‘chaotic’, experienced an ‘exceptionally difficult weekend’ after a backlog of patients turned up with flu and other respiratory and winter illnesses.
NHS figures released last week also reveal 1,336 people across the UK have been admitted to hospital with the winter vomiting bug, up from 790 the week before.
Experts said this spike in norovirus cases is adding pressure to hospital beds, with 94.6 per cent being occupied, which is causing the health service to buckle under the strain, according to an ITV Meridian report.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also blames the recent drop in temperatures for the increase in demand on hospital services.
Patients were forced to wait for up to five-and-a-half hours while 23 ambulances queued outside a hospital’s A&E department as winter illnesses leave medics struggling to cope
Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth experienced an ‘exceptionally difficult weekend’ after a backlog of patients turned up with flu and other respiratory illnesses
NHS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO COPE DURING THE WINTER MONTHS DUE TO UNPRECEDENTED PRESSURE
Patients will have to ‘sleep, take paracetamol and pray’, concerned doctors warned earlier this month ahead of the impending winter crisis.
The NHS is expected to face unprecedented pressure in the coming months, as campaigners fear it will be disastrous amid soaring waiting lists in A&E.
Now GPs are echoing the widespread worries, claiming it will become a ‘survival of the fittest’ as they are already struggling to cope.
A survey of 633 doctors, undertaken by GP Online, revealed the concerns as the recruitment crisis continues to burn with no signs of slowing.
One GP, whose identity is unknown, told the publication: ‘One flu epidemic and my out-of-hours service will be in meltdown. It literally will be survival of the fittest.
‘The ambulance service cannot cope, there are no beds available in the hospitals and overnight I single-handedly cover half a county.
‘The public will have to sleep, take paracetamol and pray. There is no way we will cope. We were working at capacity during August never mind January.’
‘Unprecedented volume of admissions’
Most patients waited for around 60 minutes, yet one was forced to sit outside in an ambulance for five-and-a-half hours.
Dr John Knighton, medical director at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘We have had an unprecedented volume of admissions with an increasing number of patients with respiratory illnesses and flu.
‘The ambulance crew and medical staff have worked exceptionally hard to make sure patients with the highest safety risks are prioritised.
‘Of course we regret that downstream there is a blockage,’ ITV Meridian reported.
He added: ‘The Emergency Department at Queen Alexandra hospital was extremely busy over the weekend (15-16 December) and unfortunately this meant longer waits than normal for ambulances arriving at the hospital.
‘When the hospital experiences this level of demand the safety of patients is our primary concern.
‘All patients were assessed as soon as they arrived at the emergency department and every effort was made to minimise delays and disruption.
‘We have been working closely with our colleagues at South Central Ambulance service and I would like to thank them for their support.
‘Winter is an extremely challenging time of year for the NHS and we have robust plans in place to cope with the extra demands on our services.’
In total, 125 hours were spent between patients waiting to be seen by QA’s A&E staff on Friday alone, with 450 hours being wasted over the week.
Patient Jamie Linfield, from Petersfield, was collected from his home by an ambulance at around midday on Friday after suffering severe chest and back pain.
He said: ‘Obviously I wanted to get into the hospital as soon as possible. There was 17 ambulances waited outside and it was just getting worse and worse.’
Mr Linfield was not seen to until the early hours of Saturday morning.
In total, 125 hours were spent between patients waiting to be seen by A&E staff on Friday alone
Some 450 hours were wasted by patients waiting at the hospital over the past week
‘Behind every [statistic] is a person waiting too long’
QA hospital aside, the demands of winter illnesses are leading to delays in ambulances waiting at hospitals for patients to be admitted across the country.
Last week, 11,900 vehicles were held up for more than 30 minutes, up from 10,200 the previous week. Of these, 2,340 were delays of an hour or more, up from 1,840.
Janet Davies, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Behind every [statistic] is a person waiting too long, often in pain and discomfort and at their lowest ebb.’
One patient arrived at hospital with chest pain to be told 17 ambulances were waiting ahead
Across the UK last week, 11,900 ambulances were held up for more than 30 minutes, up from 10,200 the previous week. Of these, 2,340 were delays of an hour or more, up from 1,840