Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth inundated with ambulances as winter season hits hard

WINTER pressures are starting to bite at Queen Alexandra Hospital as an ambulance arrived at A&E once every eight minutes on its busiest day so far.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:00 am
Ambulances queuing at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth in October. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Figures offering the first snapshot of how the NHS is coping in the season show the Cosham hospital saw 182 patients brought in by paramedics on December 7.

That is up from 144 on the same Saturday last year and even higher than the 126 in 2017.

Annual increases in flu cases, respiratory illnesses and winter vomiting have seen a hike in patients who need urgent assessment or treatment in hospital, medics said.

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People have been asked to only use 999 and A&E in a ‘serious or life-threatening emergency’ with patients able to access treatment centres for less urgent problems.

Norovirus in 13 patients saw the closure of 33 beds at F2 ward on December 6 before it was partially reopened on December 9 and then fully open a day later.

Dr John Knighton, medical director at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA Hospital, said: ‘There is no single reason for the increase in ambulance conveyances to our Emergency Department (ED).

‘The winter period always brings an increase in patients arriving with conditions such as respiratory illnesses and we are also beginning to see some early signs of flu.’

He added: ‘Winter is a challenging time and we continue to work with our colleagues at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS), to ensure that only those patients in need of urgent care and treatment are brought to our ED.

‘We are also working closely with our partners across Portsmouth and south east Hampshire to ensure that patients who arrive via ambulance can be moved into the hospital in a timely way and that patients can be discharged promptly once they have received all the acute care and treatment they need.’

Last week 1,013 patients were taken to QA by ambulance. On the busy Saturday 27 waited 30-60 minutes and 11 for more than an hour.

Latest figures from SCAS set to be published this week show 320 patients were taken to QA between December 14-15 this year, 11.5 per cent up from 287 in 2018.

Tracy Redman-Hall, head of operations in South East Hampshire at SCAS, said: ‘SCAS only has a finite amount of ambulance resources available and we will always prioritise them to those patients suffering life-threatening or serious emergencies.

‘At times of high demand for our 999 service and when the Queen Alexandra Hospital is also very busy, we can be unable to handover patients as quickly as we or our hospital partners would like.’

Ambulance medics have urged people to get flu immunisation via injection or nasal spray, particularly for those older than 65, people with a long-term health condition, expectant mums and young children.

Treatment and advice is available from the NHS online, on the 24/7 phone number 111, and minor injuries or illnesses are treated at St Mary’s Urgent in Milton and at Gosport War Memorial Hospital and Petersfield Hospital.

‘Patients will often be seen quicker for sprains, broken bones, minor burns and minor cuts and injuries here than they would be at A&E or waiting for an ambulance,’ said Ms Redman-Hall.