Queen Alexandra Hospital A&E on ‘black alert’

The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital
The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital

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A ‘BLACK alert’ has been declared as scores of people are queuing in A&E at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

The Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the alert has been in place since Thursday.

It said a black alert is ‘when all actions have failed to contain service pressure and the local health economy is unable to deliver comprehensive emergency care’.

The CCG said this black alert was caused by the Cosham hospital not having enough A&E beds to cope with high numbers of people being admitted, and that at its peak more than 100 patients were waiting to be seen.

This was despite an additional 64 beds being used for urgent care, and routine elective operations being cancelled so that these beds could be used.

Innes Richens, chief operating officer for the Portsmouth CCG, said: ‘Not enough beds has meant long delays in A&E for patients waiting to be admitted or assessed, and many other patients being admitted to wards not specialising in the care they need.

‘At its peak, there were more than 100 patients in this position.

‘This has reduced to about 60 and we are working to reduce this further as a matter of high priority.

‘The reduction has been achieved by all health and social care partners working together to get as many patients home who have finished their hospital care.’

The CCG said it is rare for a health system to be put on black alert, and in the past two years it has only been used ‘a handful of times’ and is usually in place for less than 48 hours.

Measures put in place to bring down numbers include having extra staff, opening up more beds in community places and making sure people have the right support to be treated at home.

Mr Innes added: ‘People with a health concern can also often save themselves time and hassle by going to a local pharmacist, getting a same-day appointment with their GP, or heading to an NHS walk-in centre or minor injuries unit, or NHS 111 for anyone who has a non-emergency health concern.’

Despite months of talks and promises that the A&E crisis is being tackled, demand on the service is still extremely high.

For about 18 months Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, has been faced with scores of people turning up to the emergency department each day.

The problem first came to light in July last year, when figures showed QA was being fined thousands of pounds for failing to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours and for holding up ambulances in A&E.

As reported, promises were made to ensure things would improve.

When this didn’t happen, Clinical Commissioning Groups introduced the urgent care centre in late November last year.

This involves having GPs in A&E to target patients who don’t need urgent care.

Other measures introduced have included increasing the number of beds available, and holding more daily meetings to identify which patients can be discharged.

However despite these measures, the A&E system has been on ‘black alert’ since Thursday, with no end in sight.