No hospital should be on high alert 134 days a year

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The raw statistics make for bleak reading.

For more than a third of 2016 – 134 days – Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham was on black alert.

Considering that a mere three years earlier, in 2013, it was only on the highest level for 12 days, something has gone seriously wrong.

Even from 2015, the figure is up by more than a third.

As with any story of this ilk, it comes with the enormous caveat that we do not blame the hard-pressed staff who give the job their all on every single shift and are already operating under huge pressure.

The problem clearly comes from something far more fundamental: the hospital simply cannot cope with demand.

As other medical facilities and services in the area are either reduced or closed altogether – look at the demise of the Guildhall Walk walk-in centre in the city centre – the patients they served do not just vanish.

With the crippling financial demands on QA, which are unlikely to be alleviated any time soon, there are no quick, easy fixes to this situation.

But there is something we can all be aware of. Whenever we think we require medical attention, we need to ask whether A&E is really the best place to go.

When the A&E waiting room is routinely packed and ambulances are stacked up outside unable to discharge their patients, commonsense could go a long way to helping.

We are encouraged to speak to our GP, the chemist or dial 111. Yes, we know that GPs are also oversubscribed, but they should at least be able to point people in the right direction for assistance and possible treatment.

At a time when our beleaguered NHS is under threat, we should be doing what we can to help it, not add more unnecessary demands.