Eight-hour wait in A&E: Winter fears grow as delays hit

Staff are working 'flat out' as they struggle to cope with the rising number of patients coming to A&E

Staff are working 'flat out' as they struggle to cope with the rising number of patients coming to A&E

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Hospital staff are working ‘flat out’ as soaring patient numbers in Blackpool have left medics struggling to cope, it has today been claimed.

One concerned relative has described scenes of chaos in the Accident and Emergency department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital as nurses work through their breaks and patients are left on trolleys in corridors due to a lack of beds.

Blackpool Victoria Hospital's A&E department

Blackpool Victoria Hospital's A&E department

But as hospital bosses said they were seeing a ‘record number of patients’, union bosses blasted the lack of support for the NHS.

A British Medical Association spokesman said: “Staff are working flat-out but the system is unable to keep up with the number of patients coming through the door.”

One woman, who was in the Vic with her partner, said corridors were ‘full of trolleys with people waiting to be seen’ on Tuesday.

The Gazette understands pressure has been building since Christmas, although that was particularly bad day.

Ambulances outside the A&E department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Ambulances outside the A&E department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

The woman added: “A staff nurse and doctor in A&E who were treating my partner said people were having to wait between seven and eight hours. There was an old lady of 102 on a trolley crying for hours.

“Staff were running around trying their best to see everyone and working through their breaks but I have never seen anything like it.

“Some people had been waiting 17 hours for a bed and were still waiting when we left. It was not nice to watch stressed out staff trying to do too many things at once.

“The nurse said it had been that way every day since Christmas week. My partner’s treatment was fantastic, we have no complaints, but it was quite shocking to witness.”

Pat Oliver, Director of Operations at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Pat Oliver, Director of Operations at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The most recent figures available show A&E waiting times at the Vic soared in November as demand rose.

Just 77 per cent of patients were seen in under four hours, compared to 82 per cent in October and 88 per cent in November 2014.

Doctors’ union the British Medical Association said the concerns reflect a ‘wider issue across the NHS’ as staff struggle to cope with ‘inadequate resources’ – and called for better support for the entire health service.

A spokesman added: “Delays of this kind are simply not acceptable.

“A shortage of social care beds creates ‘exit block’ in hospitals, meaning patients who no longer need to be in hospital can’t be discharged because there is simply nowhere for them to go.”

Bed occupancy at the Vic hit 95 per cent at the start of the month and has regularly topped 90 per cent – classed as ‘very high’ in a report by watchdog Monitor – in recent weeks.

However occupancy remains lower than in other Lancashire hospitals.

Regional Director for the Royal College of Nursing in the North West Estephanie Dunn said hospitals are ‘full to bursting’ and staff are ‘over-stretched’.

She added: “We simply don’t have enough nurses. At the same time, A&E departments and hospitals are running at full capacity trying to keep up with ever increasing demand and cope with winter pressures.

“Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver and maintain good patient care - on their feet all day without taking breaks or lunch, staying on late to complete handovers, or working on their days off and holidays to keep services going.”

Pat Oliver, director of operations at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Along with A&E units nationally, Blackpool Victoria Hospital is treating a record number of patients at the moment, which is putting extra pressures on our emergency department.

“Patients are seen in a clinical need order and this can mean some people have to wait longer than others.

“To offer safe, effective care we must prioritise the most clinically urgent cases.

“Unfortunately this can mean that at times we have to put patients on trolleys within the A&E unit but outside the bedded areas.”

The Trust has repeatedly urged patients to consider alternative health services in non-emergency cases.