These included 1,259 people going into emergency departments, 2,225 people calling 999, 4,139 people calling 111 and 11,592 patients being given same-day appointments at GP surgeries. That’s an average rate of once every 4.5 seconds.
Health bosses have said that the high numbers, combined with rising Covid-19 cases and ‘soaring staff sickness absence’ because of the virus, is ‘pushing our health and care teams to the brink’.
It’s led to an urgent warning being issued – ‘please only come to A&E if it’s a matter of life or death’.
Dr John Knighton, medical director at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust said: ‘Our services are always busy. However this is an extremely difficult and challenging period for us. The demand on all our services and the number of staff currently sick, means we are having to make difficult decisions and prioritise patients who are most in need of emergency care and the services only we can provide to them.
‘Keeping our hospital safe is challenging and we would like our community to play their part in helping us to care for the sickest patients. Please only attend the emergency department if it is life-threatening and help reduce the risk of spreading this virus to others by following guidance around isolating if you have symptoms of Covid-19.
‘Our beds need to be kept for those who need them. If you have a loved one with us as an inpatient and know they are being discharged, please collect them as soon as they are ready, as we have patients waiting for these beds.’
A statement issued by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight NHS says: ‘Dedicated staff continue to do all they can to support every single patient across our hospitals and communities.
‘But mounting pressures, compounded by rising rates of Covid-19 and soaring staff sickness absence due to the virus, are pushing our health and care teams to the brink.
‘With pressures so high it is more important than ever that everyone makes the right call when they need help from the NHS to ensure patients get the care they need more quickly, and staff can focus on those who need them most.’
The hospital declared an internal critical incident in December due to Covid pressure – between December 2 and December 6 the hospital no available general and acute beds, and at that stage had about 85 Covid patients.
In Portsmouth there have been 2,281 new Covid cases in the last seven days, according to the government’s coronavirus dashboard. The most recent date for new cases is March 20, when 310 new cases were detected on tests. Mirroring the national picture, cases have increased steadily since so-called Freedom Day on February 24, a day which saw 76 new cases in Portsmouth.
On March 21, QA had 198 Covid patients in beds – the highest number since February 27, 2021.
People are asked to ensure that they or anyone they are caring for only attends an emergency department if it is an emergency such as serious blood loss, suspected stroke or heart attack, or loss of consciousness.
Dr Zaid Hirmiz, the clinical director for south east Hampshire at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care System, said: ‘Your NHS is here for you, as always, but please think carefully about the right service for you.
‘Frontline teams are working tirelessly under significant and sustained pressure to ensure patients continue to receive safe, high quality care. Please help us help you get the right care in the right place at the right time.
‘If you or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening emergency call 999, attend, or ensure they attend, an emergency department. If you need urgent medical help but it is not a life-threatening emergency, call 111 first or visit 111.nhs.uk where a trained advisor will direct you to the most appropriate service for your needs. This could be your GP practice, a pharmacy or urgent treatment centre.’
The side of this weekend’s plea is for people to help keep Hampshire hospitals as clear as possible by helping to make sure relatives or friends leave when they are allowed to be discharged. They can also help by assisting with transport home, bringing in clothes or shoes for the person being discharged, and helping with their medication.