Hospital enduring Third World conditions, says doctor amid countrywide warnings

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An A&E doctor has complained about “Third World conditions” in his hospital as leading medics warned that every emergency department in the country is struggling to cope with winter pressures.

Some hospitals have declared themselves at the most severe pressure level while doctors warned that scores are operating at almost full capacity.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned that overcrowding in A&E departments leads to avoidable deaths.

It also cautioned that pressure on the system is leading to lengthy waits and patients being treated in corridors.

Meanwhile a number of ambulance services are also under severe pressure, with one even resorting to taxis to ferry patients to hospital.

The East of England Ambulance Service said that during December 30, 31 and January 1, 13 patients deemed to be low acuity calls were transported to hospital by taxi.

In the last four days, paramedics working for the trust have wasted more than 500 hours waiting outside hospitals to admit patients due to “handover delays”.

A number of hospital trusts have declared that they are Operational Pressures Escalation Level 4 which means: “Pressure in the local health and social care system continues to escalate leaving organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care. There is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised.”

Among organisations contacted by the Press Association, Darent Valley Hospital A&E in Kent, Royal Cornwall Hospital and University Hospitals Of Leicester NHS Trust have all declared OPEL4 in the last week.

The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said the health system in the whole county has declared OPEL4.

Dr Richard Fawcett, an emergency medicine consultant working at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, said he was heartbroken to see so many frail and elderly patients languishing in corridors.

On Twitter, he apologised to patients in the Stoke area for “3rd world conditions of the dept due to #overcrowding”.

Meanwhile the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and the Society for Acute Medicine both issued stark warnings over pressure.

Emergency medicine consultant Dr Adrian Boyle, chairman for quality at the RCEM, said: “Every type 1 emergency department that I know of is under serious and sustained pressure.

“It feels worse than the equivalent period last year.

“This means that ambulances are waiting outside emergency departments waiting to offload, the emergency departments are full, clinical staff are working extremely hard to try and look after these patients, often having to treat patients in corridors, people suffering lengthy delays.

“And we know that excessive crowding within emergency departments is associated with avoidable deaths.”

Asked about the four-hour target, where patients are seen and either treated or admitted within four hours, he added: “We will have data on Friday through our Winter Flow project but I’m expecting this to be among the worst we’ve ever reported.”

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, added: “The position at the moment is as bad as I’ve ever known.

“Pre-Christmas, 43 trusts were more than 98% full despite 3,000 extra beds in use. I expect this to be at least doubled, maybe trebled today.

“We are seeing a lot of flu-like symptoms but as yet do not know if it is ‘normal’ or the Australasian strain.”

University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust’s medical director Dr John Oxtoby said: “The health system in the North Midlands was under severe and sustained pressure over the Christmas period and this challenging situation has continued into the New Year.

“During this time the emergency departments will continue to see the sickest patients first, which is unfortunately leading to long waits for other patients.”

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