‘Lives are at risk if action is not taken to address hospital’s woes’

Ambulances outside Queen Alexandra Hospital
Ambulances outside Queen Alexandra Hospital

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HAMPSHIRE’S ‘failing hospital and ambulance service is putting lives at risk in Portsmouth’, a firefighters union has warned.

The message comes as it was revealed firefighters in Southsea were forced to use their own fire engine to take a man to hospital after waiting two hours for an ambulance that never came.

It follows in the wake of weeks of woes which have seen QA placed on black alert and ambulance crews stretched to the limit, leaving patients waiting hours for treatment.

Monday saw firefighters taking a 45-year-old man to hospital after a blaze at Edgbaston House, in Sedgley Close, Somers Town, while on Saturday an elderly woman was left waiting for more than an hour after falling and hurting her knee outside Waitrose in North Street, Havant.

Hampshire Fire Brigade Union has now called for drastic action to be taken to prevent problems at both Queen Alexandra Hospital and South Central Ambulance Service from spiralling out of control.

Gary Jackson, secretary of the union said: ‘We shouldn’t be picking up the pieces of another failing organisation.

‘QA is failing and is leaving ambulances piling up outside the hospital.

‘Scas is then being put under unprecedented pressure because they can’t discharge patients to QA.

‘Now this problem is leaching out beyond the NHS and hitting the fire service.

‘This is not our business – we are a fire and rescue service. We can’t afford to have one of our appliances wrapped up to deal with a medical issue.

‘If someone has a fire and rescue issue their response is delayed because we’re picking up the pieces of Scas’ work.

‘We have had appliances delayed for an unreasonable amount of time baby-sitting a patient – it’s not acceptable, it could put people at risk in Portsmouth.’

The appeal comes as city leaders are today poised to confront health secretary Jeremy Hunt in a bid to get him to address the crisis.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt is due to hold talks with the health boss to discuss what action can be taken to improve the situation.

Likewise, Portsmouth City Council’s leader Donna Jones has this morning written to Mr Hunt calling for him to step to ease the pressure faced by the city’s hospital staff and paramedics.

Speaking to The News, Cllr Jones said: ‘The substantial risk of death for very seriously ill people needing to be admitted to hospital is increasing beyond an acceptable level.

‘The A&E department at QA is not big enough for the demand of the population it cares for.

‘Sadly when the new hospital was built, A&E wasn’t rebuilt. The new hospital was in fact built around a 60-year-old emergency department.’

She added: ‘As leader of the city council I am not here to criticise in any way, but to offer help and assistance.

‘I have some ideas for financial remodelling which could free up money to pay for a new A&E department.

‘A solution needs to be found and I want to be part of that.’

This weekend alone saw fire service personnel assisting Scas at 17 different incidents across Fareham, Gosport and Havant.

Mr Jackson added that if the woes were not sorted soon, the crisis could escalate and suck in the fire service.

The union secretary said plans were already being looked at to increase the level of medical support the fire service provides to Scas.

It could see them working closer than ever before assisting with more medical emergencies – not just fire and rescue ones.

‘But we mustn’t lose sight that we’re a fire and rescue service,’ he added.

Responding to the Edgbaston House incident, Scas apologised for the delay.

A spokeswoman said it categorised the patient with non life-threatening injuries and that it hoped to reach them within 30 minutes.

She added the service had been called at 6.13pm but said it was told to stand down later, at 8.52pm, when the fire service said it would be taking the patient to QA.

Explaining the service’s delay, the official said: ‘At the time we were notified of the incident we were experiencing a high level of demand for emergency response in the area as well as having a number of ambulances unavailable as they were delayed at hospitals in the area.

‘We would like to apologise to the patient and partner agency for the delay in responding to this incident and regret that on this occasion the timely service that we aim to achieve was not of the standard we strive to deliver.’

She explained on average across the region, the resources Scas has to meet emergency demand equates to one ambulance per 23,000 people in the day and one per 35,000 people at night.

As a result, the service said it had to ‘prioritise its resources’ to attend the most urgent calls, which unfortunately can lead at times to delays in getting to patients involved in non life-threatening incidents.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs QA in Cosham – did not comment on whether there had been delays at the hospital and whether there were plans in the pipeline to address them. But a trust spokeswoman did confirm fire crews had taken a man to the hospital and explained he was released not long after arrival.

She said: ‘We understand a crew from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service took the initiative to bring a member of the public who had been affected by a house fire direct into hospital, in the belief the individual required medical attention. We’re pleased the patient was seen, treated and discharged within 30 minutes of arrival at QA hospital.’

Injured pensioner left waiting on cold pavement

SOUTH Central Ambulance Service has apologised after an elderly woman waited almost two hours following a fall.

The woman was unable to walk after hurting her knee outside Waitrose in North Street, Havant, on Saturday.

An ambulance was called just before 9am but it did not arrive until 10.38am.

Waitrose staff kept her warm with a blanket and cups of tea.

In a statement Scas said it was sorry for the delay and added: ‘The incident was categorised as a Green 2 call – non-life threatening, requiring a response in 30 minutes.

‘At the time we were notified of the incident, we were experiencing a high level of demand for emergency responses in the area as well as having a number of ambulances unavailable to us as they were at local emergency departments. Staff in our clinical co-ordination centre remained in contact with the patient and an off-duty nurse at the scene during the delay, checking on the status of the patient, apologising for the delay and providing advice in terms of what to do should the patient’s condition worsen.’

Fury at hospital wait

DISGUSTED Kathleen Mitchell rang The News from an ambulance after she was stuck waiting outside hospital for three hours.

The 61-year-old rang NHS 111 after getting chest pains and was advised to call for an ambulance.

She was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, where she waited outside for three hours before being allowed inside. She said it was a total of seven hours before she was seen by a doctor.

Speaking from the ambulance, Mrs Mitchell, from Hayling Island, told The News: ‘It’s disgusting I have to sit in a cold ambulance absolutely freezing with two paramedics that can’t let me go until I have got into the hospital. There’s six ambulances in front of me.’

After being in the ambulance, Mrs Mitchell was transferred into a ‘jumbulance’, which carries several patients, before finally getting into the hospital.

She said: ‘What’s the point of sending out an ambulance when I have to sit outside the hospital in a cold ambulance?

‘Something has got be done. You shouldn’t have to sit outside in an ambulance for hours on end.’

Mrs Mitchell was recovering at home yesterday.

Timeline shows long waits keep happening

January 16 - Pensioner Maureen Blackford was left waiting in an ambulance outside Queen Alexandra Hospital for more than five hours after falling down the stairs and hitting her head.

Mrs Blackford, 80, fell down the stairs at her Fratton home and banged her head.

After four hours she was taken into the hospital, undressed and had a robe put on, but was then taken back out into a ‘jumbulance’, before she was finally seen.

January 28 - A disabled woman who fell out of a mobility wheelchair on a busy high street and broke both her legs waited nearly three hours for an ambulance.

The incident happened in Lee-on-the-Solent. Isabel Telfer, 60, a retired nurse, was helped by kind passers-by until paramedics arrived.

South Central Ambulance Service said the call was categorised as ‘non life-threatening’ and it should have responded within 30 minutes.

February 29 - A man was forced to wait four hours for an ambulance after he collapsed and hit his head on the kerb.

Edward Keane, 62, was left to lie on the freezing pavement after his fall in Portsea. Mr Keane was left semi-conscious, with blood pouring from a wound. Neighbours say they called emergency services at least 10 times between them.