Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth on 'black alert' as medics face 'severe pressure'

HEALTH bosses have put Queen Alexandra Hospital on black alert as they contend with ‘severe pressure’.

By Ben Fishwick
Saturday, 7th August 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 13th August 2021, 8:43 am
GV of Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman
GV of Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Around 320 people a day are arriving at the Cosham hospital’s A&E department – with cases of an out-of-season respiratory virus adding to concerns the demand could lead to delays in elective treatment.

Chief executive Penny Emerit said her team was doing ‘everything we can’ to support frontline workers – and the hospital has pleaded with people to use the NHS 111 service before coming into A&E.

The number of Covid-19 patients is currently stable but in recent board papers Ms Emerit warned planned appointments could still be hit.

A mix of staff sickness, requirements to self-isolate and cases of respiratory syncytial virus, mainly affecting young children, are compounding the pressure together with a high number of A&E attendances.

Public Health England last month warned the NHS is preparing to see more cases of RSV in young children. QA Hospital has now seen cases.

The hospital has reported its ‘highest ever’ number of visits to A&E ‘across the system’ in June.

On average 328 patients visited A&E a day that month.

Penny Emerit, chief executive at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth. Picture: PHUT

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Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust chief operating officer Chris Evans said: ‘We continue to see high numbers of people attending our emergency department every day and would really encourage people to use NHS 111 online for medical advice.

‘NHS 111 online will be able to direct you to the most appropriate care and treatment for your needs, and you’ll be helping us to keep our patients and staff safe.

‘While the number of patients with Covid-19 in our hospital is currently stable, we must all remain vigilant in terms of the care and precautions we are taking in our communities and with our friends and families to reduce the risk of transmission.’

Even amidst this latest challenge for Portsmouth workers, hospital bosses already have one eye on the winter flu season.

Ms Emerit said the use of masks, social distancing and other Covid measures means there is a ‘lower level of population immunity’ to seasonal influenza.

She is urging people to get the flu inoculation when offered over fears flu cases could ‘add substantially to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS, particularly if infection waves from both viruses coincide’.

Delays in elective treatment

Doctors and nurses have been working through a backlog of planned appointments after they were cancelled so Covid-19 patients could be treated instead.

Healthwatch Portsmouth is concerned about further delays to such treatment, given the new pressures at QA Hospital.

Roger Batterbury, chairperson, said: ‘We as a healthcare watchdog are concerned about the pressures being faced across the whole health and care system in Portsmouth and especially the impact that it is having on elective care services or health provision already booked.

‘Only last month the trust had been starting to catch up with the very long waiting lists for treatment that had been generated by the pandemic.’

He said resuming elective care was ‘one of our biggest postbag issues’ and is working with the trust.

In board papers Ms Emerit said there was an ‘element of uncertainty’ around accessing the elective recovery fund cash, and getting money back from continuing to treat Covid patients.

She added: ‘Our operating context requires us to balance increasing urgent demand and our operational priorities (including recovering non-elective waiting times and treating cancer patients) with an uncertain financial regime for the second half of 2021-22.’

There were 31 Covid patients in QA Hospital as of August 3, up from a recent peak of 54 on July 19.

Meanwhile, August 1 saw four new Covid patients admitted, down from 14 on July 23.

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus is common but can harm younger children.

Some youngsters under two, who were born prematurely or have a heart condition, can develop an inflammatory infection of their lower airways.

This can make it hard to breathe - with symptoms being a high temperature of 37.8C over a few days, a dry or persistent cough or difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing.

Parents are being advised to keep an eye out for symptoms. An increase is being seen now as Covid measures reduced immunity in the community.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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