Queen Alexandra Hospital: critical incident runs into third week as hospital remains under "intense pressure"

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A major Portsmouth hospital remains under critical incident three weeks after it was first declared, with winter viruses causing added pressure to services.

Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham announced the critical incident on Wednesday, January 3 amidst the junior doctors strike. However, more than three weeks later the hospital remains under the same status with services under extreme pressure due to a high volume of patients. The issue is also being exacerbated due to a high number of cases of winter viruses such as Norovirus, Measles, Flu and COVID-19.

A spokesperson from Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) said: “Queen Alexandra Hospital continues to be busy with intense pressure across all our services and we remain operating in a critical incident. This is not a position we want to be in, and we do not want to run a critical incident for longer than is necessary. A critical incident is declared when services are disrupted and we are unable to deliver critical services, protect patient safety, or operate within a safe environment. It can last hours, days or even weeks in some circumstances. The critical incident means we can take a series of actions, such as caring for patients in surge areas outside of our usual wards, which allows us to keep our services open to the community.

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"We remain in critical incident as we have a high number of very unwell patients needing care and limited ability to discharge patients home or to ongoing care. This means we have a shortage of spaces to care for people. This is also leading to ambulance delays - both those coming into the hospital and those attending in the community - as well as long waits for patients in the Emergency Department. We must make sure we improve this before we can move out of the critical incident. We review our position every two hours and take further actions when needed. We are also being impacted by high cases of winter seasonal viruses, including Norovirus (vomiting and diarrhoea) and rising cases of Measles, Flu and COVID-19. Other NHS Trusts are also seeing these types of infections which unfortunately spread very easily."

The Trust is advising that anybody with symptoms of the above viruses, whether patient or visitor, should not come to the hospital. The symptoms can generally be managed safely at home, however, if you become more unwell the NHS advises to contact NHS111 or speak to your GP. The spokesperson added: "We urgently need your help to make sure we can see those in our community who are the sickest and need us the most. This means unless you are experiencing a life-threatening injury or illness, it is vital that you seek alternative services and do not come to the Emergency Department. If you do attend and could be seen elsewhere safely, you will be redirected. Our services are still open, and we thank you for everything you have done to support us" For details and advice on how to identify symptoms of winter illness please visit the PHU website. Alongside this there are a number of measures that the Trust are asking the public to take to help alleviate the pressure they are experiencing:

  • If you have a loved one in hospital waiting to be discharged with homecare and community health support, you may help them leave quicker if you can temporarily support them at home. If you feel that this is an option, or you can help with something that you see as blocking their ability to leave hospital, please speak to their ward manager, doctor or social worker.
  • Only coming to the ED if you have a life-threatening emergency like signs of a heart attack or strike, severe difficulty breathing, choking or heavy bleeding.
  • Using Urgent Treatment Centres based in Portsmouth, Petersfield and Gosport. They can help with many problems such as broken bones and sprains, cuts and bruises, skin infections and rashes.
  • GP practices are open and available. Please do not come to the Emergency Department for things that should be seen by your GP.
  • If you have a cough, sore throat, high temperature, or vomiting and diarrhoea, please don’t visit your friends and relatives in hospital until 48 hours (2 days) after this stops. We can arrange video calls with patients to make sure you keep in touch.
  • If you don’t know where to go for help, then please call NHS 111 or use their website. They provide help and advice for your symptoms including dental problems and mental health needs.

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