THE chief executive of Queen Alexandra Hospital said measures are in place to deal with additional winter pressures.
But Mark Cubbon admitted in terms of patients seriously ill with flu, the worst is yet to come.
It feels like we have constant pressure, although the pressures are different.Mark Cubbon
Since Christmas the Cosham site has been working to keep on top of significant pressure from an influx in patients, consequences of the cold weather and a bout of serious flu cases.
Staff had last weekend been called in to work additional shifts to help ensure the hospital remained safe and Mr Cubbon said it might be a while before the strain eases.
‘It is quite possible the pressures will continue for some time,’ he told The News.
‘The flu cases will continue for some time and, looking at other areas of the country, we have not even reached the peak of it yet.
‘But we have put a lot of measures in place to make sure patients are looked after, assisted and their treatment started as quickly as possible.
‘These are things we had planned to put into place and that we have put into place. We were all here trying to make sure staff were supported and we could minimise delays.’
Yesterday’s News reported the story of Josephine Smalley, who had to endure a five-hour wait in an ambulance and two hours on a trolley in a corridor at the hospital. Sadly, the 88-year-old died.
Earlier this week, NHS England recommended hospitals defer all non-urgent surgery and out-patient appointments. Although QA Hospital has not done this, Mr Cubbon said they have looked at it on a case-by-case, service-by-service basis.
He added: ‘We haven’t put a blanket policy in place saying we cannot perform any surgeries. We are looking at it daily and our priority is those patients who are critically ill and need urgent care.
‘Obviously the more operations or out-patient appointments we do postpone, the more we will have to do at some point later in the year.
‘A few years ago we used to have sustained periods of pressure in the winter and then months were there wasn’t as much. Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It feels like we have constant pressure, although the pressures are different.
‘Clearly the challenge we have is we would have to bring the patients with cancelled operations or appointments in at some point.’
In a recent survey by The News, people living in Portsmouth said healthcare needed more than any other area and they were willing to pay more income tax if the money went to the NHS.
QA Hospital is not the only NHS hospital at breaking point. Many across the country have experienced increased demand in the last week although Mr Cubbon said they started seeing issues just before Christmas.
‘We did run into some difficulties at Christmas,’ he said.
‘We normally have a chance to discharge patients before Christmas and the demand is less. By managing to discharge patients, we cut down on capacity for beds.
‘But this year we had a problem that the demand was still high and we weren’t able to get the flexibility we would have like in our capacity.
‘That, added, with the patients who were coming through the front doors caused problems.
‘We had a real spike in people who had seasonal-type illnesses and respiratory illnesses. When we have an increase in these problems, and an increase in flu, it can mean our staff get ill too.
‘It makes it quite complex. We are a full hospital but we been an even fuller hospital.’
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients nationwide for the issues and Mr Cubbon has also said sorry for the Portsmouth patients.
‘There were some patients who waited longer than we would have liked and to them, I do apologise,’ he said.
‘We did everything we could to make sure the situation was as safe as possible for patients and that was when we took the decision to call more staff in.’
John Knighton, medical director at QA, also thanked patients for their patience during this busy period.
He said: ‘As well as apologising to patients, we want to thank them for the support they have shown our staff.
‘Patients have been incredibly supportive and grateful to our staff over this whole period. That is really appreciated and the staff find it reassuring too.’
STAFF PRAISED FOR WORKING EXTRA HOURS
STAFF who responded to work extra shifts and stay on to deal with winter pressures at an A&E department have been praised.
Mark Cubbon, chief executive of Queen Alexandra Hospital, thanked all employees who have worked additional hours over Christmas and new year.
As previously reported in The News, QA Hospital had to put out a plea on Twitter for extra staff to work last weekend.
It comes as the hospital has faced increasing pressure in recent days.
And Mr Cubbon said he was grateful to everyone who responded.
‘It was a tremendous response by our staff,’ he said.
‘It was New Year’s Eve and late in the afternoon when we realised we would need additional staff.
‘It is a very, very rare occurrence that we would put out a message like that to ask for staff.
‘The pressure was significant and staff responded really well.
‘I want to thank all the staff and say how grateful we are and how appreciative that they gave up time with their families to help.’
John Knighton, medical director of QA Hospital in Cosham, echoed this message and thanked staff for their efforts.
He said: ‘We had clinical staff, non-clinical staff, administration staff, support staff – all kinds of employees answered the call.
‘They all came into the hospital to make it a safer environment than it would otherwise have been.
‘It wasn’t just a couple of hours either, they worked into the night and the next day and this has continued.
‘They have gone above and beyond and should be recognised for their efforts.
‘They are putting the care of patients and the safety of patients first.’