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Southend Hospital services under extreme pressure

16 May 2016

Health Care

Following a review meeting today, Southend University Hospital has declared an internal critical incident to its external health and local authority partners as high demand continues.

This is due to continuing high numbers of acutely ill and injured patients requiring beds with the hospital already operating at full capacity.

The hospital has been in black escalation status since the May Bank Holiday weekend, which saw very high attendance. On Monday 9 May 351 patients and 118 ambulances attended the emergency department, the highest numbers recorded to date.

In light of the continuing pressures on the hospital's emergency and acute services, the trust has declared an internal critical incident and measures to safely manage the issues and make beds available to admit very unwell patients from the emergency department.

The executive team has taken the decision to cancel some outpatient medical clinics, such as gastroenterology and elderly medicine, on Friday 13 and Monday 16 May to free up senior clinical staff, allowing inpatients to be seen more frequently and more quickly.

Sue Hardy, chief executive, said "Like other trusts across Essex and the wider region, the pressure on our services is not abating, and we continue to see more acutely unwell medical patients coming through our doors, as well as a higher than usual number of patients who have suffered falls and fractures.

"Our staff are working extremely hard to cope with the current pressures while maintaining high standards of care, and I'd like to thank them for their commitment during this difficult period.

"We are looking at all the clinic appointments and deciding which patient appointments we can safely cancel in the short term, which will help us to 'reset' the system in the hospital by concentrating all our efforts on reviewing inpatients, safely discharging patients who are medically fit and freeing up more beds.

"We will assess the effectiveness of this action and use what we learn to enable us to plan well for the next Bank Holiday.

"We will contact every patient affected by the cancellations, so if you do not hear from us, please do attend your scheduled appointment."

To assist the hospital in dealing with the situation, the trust would like to remind members of the public to only visit the accident and emergency department if they are seriously unwell or critically injured.

Choking, chest pain, blacking out, blood loss and fractures are all considered emergencies, and those with symptoms like this should not hesitate to visit their local A&E department.

Sue Hardy added: "The emergency department is very busy and we have to warn patients that those attending with 'non-urgent' conditions will wait much longer than usual as patients are prioritised according to how unwell they are.

"We would like to remind anyone who is unsure of the best course of action to always ring NHS 111 for health advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or to speak with your GP or pharmacist."