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Hospital declares early-season black alert


15 September 2017

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A hospital in Cambridgeshire has declared a ‘critical internal incident’ because of a lack of beds.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, sent out a letter to GPs, the local CCG and other hospitals on Wednesday morning asking them to refer patients to the community urgent care support team ‘whenever possible’.

The letter says the incident, which is still ongoing, is due to ‘bed capacity issues’.

A hospital in Cambridgeshire has declared a ‘critical internal incident’ because of a lack of beds.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, sent out a letter to GPs, the local CCG and other hospitals on Wednesday morning asking them to refer patients to the community urgent care support team ‘whenever possible’.

The letter says the incident, which is still ongoing, is due to ‘bed capacity issues’.

The letter says: ‘The Medical Decisions Unit (MDU) is currently full and there are patients within the Emergency Department awaiting admission that cannot be placed into inpatient beds due to a lack of bed capacity.’

The letter adds that elective patients are on hold and patients are being reviewed for potential cancellations.

The letter tells GPs: 'Whenever possible please refer patients to the community urgent care support team … The joint emergency team will respond within two hours and will attend to patients who are aged 65 years and over in their home environment.'

Dr Gary Howsam, GP chair and chief clinical officer at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, said: ‘Our hospitals are experiencing high levels of demand placing the services under pressure.’

He added: ‘NHS leaders are working together to manage this exceptionally busy time and ensure that patient care remains high quality throughout.’

A Cambridge University Hospitals spokesperson said the trust decided to declare the incident ‘as a result of increased demand on beds’.

He said: ‘These situations are not uncommon in hospitals that are seeing a year-on-year increase in demand. When appropriate, we also remind the public not to attend A&E unless it is an emergency and point out other treatment options such as GPs, pharmacists and 111.’

This comes as NHS England statistics reveal that the percentage of A&E attendances admitted to hospital or discharged in four hours or less fell from 87.9% in 2015/16 to 83.7% in 2016/17 in hospital trusts with major A&E departments.

Nationally, major A&Es have missed the target every year since 2010 when 96.1% of patients were admitted or discharged within four hours. 

Commenting on the national statistics, Justin Madders MP, Labour’s shadow health minister, said the Government's 'underfunding of the NHS' had 'caused chaos for patients and even in the height of summer key targets are being missed and waiting list numbers are rising'.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'The crisis in the NHS is across the board – with a lack of hospital beds and services, A&E departments struggling because of an overstretched system, and GPs increasingly unable to get their patients treated within adequate timescales…

'The Government has so far failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. The NHS isn’t at breaking point because of front-line financial mismanagement, or poor decision making, but because of the conscious, and constant, underinvestment in our health service.'

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