Jeremy Hunt has apologised to thousands of patients awaiting non-urgent operations for cancellations and postponements as hospitals struggle to cope with numbers of patients being seen.
Reports have emerged of serious problems in a number of places:
- Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre is asking patients to avoid its emergency department as it is on black alert, after seeing 140 patients at its peak on Tuesday evening;
- Southend Hospital said it was dealing with an "internal critical incident", which has led them to call in extra staff;
- A consultant at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust apologised for "third world conditions" in his hospital department;
- Milton Keynes University Hospital is telling people only to attend for emergency treatment;
- Two ambulance trusts in the east and north-east of England have said they are on the highest alert and are asking some of the least serious cases to make their own way to hospital
Prof Suzanne Mason, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:
"Patient safety is being compromised - there's no doubt about that. When patients are in crowded emergency departments and staff cannot actually move between patients and provide the basic level of care that's required, then safety is compromised.
"Patients who spend many hours on a trolley - and these are often elderly patients - they are the sickest patients in our department.
"They are much more likely to have a poorer outcome and even die as a result of their experience in the emergency department. And that is a huge tragedy for us in our specialty and that's why we are so desperate to see things improve."
However, the Health Secretary stated the cancellation of operations was “absolutely not what I want” but advised that the cancellation of these operations was necessary to ease pressure on hospitals.
When asked whether the NHS was in a state of crisis, The Prime Minister added that “The NHS has been better prepared for winter than ever before”.
Figures would suggest that that the first week after the festive period is particularly busy and difficult due to a lack of availability of community services, such as GPs. Further, with families often mixing in the festive period, the spread of illness can often pass to those more vulnerable, such as the elderly.
Some commentators have suggested that this trend is due to financial restraints placed on the NHS. Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary, stated “Tory underfunding and cuts have left our health service more vulnerable than ever before.”
“The week after the festive period is always a busy and difficult time for any healthcare professional whether they are GPs, nurses or consultants. Most people facing operations will be extremely anxious about what treatment they need and to learn that their operations have been cancelled in this fashion will be hugely disappointing.”
Johnathan Steventon-Kiy and the Clinical Negligence team at Swain & Co Solicitors regularly win compensation for their clients who have experienced substandard treatment or a failure to provide treatment. If you, a family member or a friend have experienced problems regarding substandard medical treatment contact our team today on 02392 483 322.