Hospitals overwhelmed more than ever before
THE number of times Nottingham’s emergency department has been under severe pressure this year has risen significantly.
So far this year, Nottingham University Hospitals has declared OPEL 4 – formerly known as black alert – 21 times. It was declared only 11 times last year.
OPEL 4 means the hospitals trust is so overwhelmed that it cannot deliver comprehensive care and there is “increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised”.
The alert is triggered by pressure across the emergency department.
The hospital has also consistently failed to hit its target of seeing everyone who visits A&E - at the Queen’s Medical Centre - within four hours.
Mike Scott, chairman of the local Keep Our NHS Public group, said: “The old problem is now evolving into a new problem. Traditionally there have been spikes in the number of people coming in winter and it has quietened down in summer.
“But that seems to be changing and it didn’t calm down this summer. It should be a massive concern for everyone likely to use the NHS - and that’s pretty much all of us.
“The Government seems to be the only organisation that hasn’t realised this and not put the money in. It’s a serious worry and the situation will get worse until the government gets to grips.
“The trust is doing everything it can to try and reduce the impact on the same money they had before.”
The winter of 2017-18 was the worst on record for Nottingham University Hospitals, with operations cancelled and waiting times rising in the face of unprecedented demand.
In January, more than 100 hospital beds were occupied by patients with flu.
Work is now under way to get ready for the colder months and learn from this year’s experiences.
This includes modernising and expanding A&E, creating a 48-bed community-run facility at Nottingham City Hospital and opening an extra 116 beds throughout winter.
Around £4.5 million of Government funding is going into the A&E expansion
A spokesman for NUH said: “Health and social care partners in Nottinghamshire are working together to prepare the system for winter. While an additional cost pressure to the trust, this extra capacity is considered a requirement to ensure the delivery of safe care to our patients and minimise disruption to our programme of planned operations.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We’re supporting the NHS with an extra £420 million this winter to redevelop A&ES, improve emergency care and help get patients home quicker, while the long-term plan to guarantee the future of the health service will be backed by an extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023-24.”
Queen’s Medical Centre