MAJOR fears have been raised that Queen Alexandra Hospital is at ‘breaking point’ as it struggles to cope with crippling demand.
It comes after the Cosham hospital was placed on ‘black alert’ as it cannot cope with the sheer number of people flooding in for emergency treatment.
And yesterday, figures revealed Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust, which manages QA, is the sixth worst-performing trust in the country in terms of meeting A&E visitor targets.
An NHS source told The News the situation has become dangerous.
‘QA is at breaking point,’ he said.
‘Ambulances can often be seen stacked outside, while those waiting for a 999 response just have to wait.
‘Inside, the vulnerable and medically unwell are one behind the other, with their conditions deteriorating and becoming life-threatening. It’s dangerous.’
A spokesperson for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘There is unprecedented demand on our emergency department as more people attend than we can manage.
‘This has resulted in our hospital declaring black status, however, we have not declared a major incident.
‘We are doing everything we can to ensure patients are safely managed and are working to ensure the demand on A&E is resolved as promptly as possible.
‘This includes promoting the use of local walk-in treatment centres to prevent unnecessary admissions, and ensuring a safe and speedy assessment of those arriving for emergency treatment, and also a prompt discharge of those who are medically fit to return to their own homes.
‘We would like to remind the public that if your injury is not serious, you can get help from a minor injuries unit rather than going to an emergency department.
‘This will allow the emergency department staff to concentrate on those people with serious, life-threatening conditions and will save you a potentially long wait.’
The figures revealed yesterday show that of the 25,459 patients who sought A&E treatment at QA in the three months up to Christmas and New Year, 81.7 per cent were seen within four hours, against a target of 95 per cent.
Steve Taylor, manager of patient watchdog group Hampshire Healthwatch, said it was a major cause for concern and people have been voicing their disapproval.
‘We have had feedback from people saying they have been waiting in ambulances to get in the hospital and haven’t been told about the waiting times,’ he said.
‘We are concerned about the length of time people are waiting, especially with the winter months ahead.
‘It’s always a concern to hear health services here and across the country are under too much pressure.
‘We need to make sure people are going to the right places for treatment and are also using the 111 and out-of-hours service.’
The NHS source added the public needs to realise A&E departments are not always the best port of call.
‘The public needs to take some accountability and realise A&E will not make all their problems better,’ the source said.
‘A&E should be a last resort not their first resort.
‘More and more people who don’t even need an ambulance are clogging up the system.
‘Something needs to change.’
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock admitted there is no magic bullet to resolve the situation – and some patients need to realise they will experience delays while those who need treatment the most are seen to.
Mr Hancock said: ‘There is no answer to it. Throwing money at the situation won’t get the extra doctors we need and better GP practices.
‘We’re in a situation where we have to treat the priority cases and if that means others having to wait then that’s what we have got.
‘The whole of the health service is under pressure, but we can’t point the blame on one section of it.’
It follows a turbulent few months for QA hospital, which was last put on black alert in October.
As reported, it was caused by the hospital not having enough A&E beds to cope with high numbers of people being admitted.
Councillor Frank Jonas, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for health and social care, said: ‘It’s a concern.
‘But what people don’t realise is, QA is not just for Portsmouth.
‘The numbers show 30 per cent of the people it serves live in Portsmouth and 70 per cent come from elsewhere.
‘We have got a growing population in Portsmouth, and that’s not taking into account the rest of south-east Hampshire.
But he added: ‘A lot of people go there because they can’t get access to their GP, that’s what some of the feedback we are getting says.’
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, (pictured), said: ‘QA is a hospital that has had historical difficulties around how to manage A&E and in terms of its finances as well.
‘The challenging thing is it needs to ensure that people’s clinical needs are met.
She added: ‘We need to make sure the people who need to be seen are seen, and the secretary of state has already said that has got to be the priority.’
City MP reveals health plan to boost hospital
HEALTH bosses have thrashed out a plan to help meet accident and emergency visitor targets and improve quality of care.
It comes after a meeting of local MPs and health representatives about the need to tackle the situation.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who was part of discussions, said the hospital wants to step up its management of beds so fewer people are waiting for treatment.
Ms Mordaunt said a discharge lounge is also set to be created for patients so they are not left waiting in beds once they no longer need care.
‘The hospital now has a plan of action which should see them hit their targets in a number of months,’ Ms Mordaunt said.
‘It has also received a bit of extra money in terms of helping it with the added strains that come in the winter months.’
She added: ‘Accident and emergency targets for Queen Alexandra Hospital have not been met for some time and MPs in the area, such as myself, Mark Hoban, Caroline Dinenage, David Willetts and George Hollingbery have been meeting for some time with not just QA personnel, but all health services to crack this.
‘It’s about trying to get people to access more appropriate services and looking at the bigger picture.’
Meanwhile, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is reminding people about the local minor injuries units which are available to visit.
Gosport War Memorial Hospital is open from 8am to 9pm every day, St Mary’s Treatment Centre, Portsmouth, is open Monday to Friday 7.30am to 10pm, and from 8am to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays.
Last admission at St Mary’s is 9.30pm.
Visitors can also go to Petersfield Community Hospital from 8am to 6pm daily.
Such facilities treat injuries such as cuts and grazes, sprains and strains, broken bones and fractures, bites and stings, infected wounds, minor head injuries and minor eye problems.
Experienced NHS nurses are there to treat problems.
Anger after relative left to wait hours in QA corridor
Emma Leng was left angry and disappointed with Queen Alexandra Hospital after her grandmother had to wait six hours in a corridor of the hospital.
Hazel Mulholland, 85, was taken to QA in Cosham on December 30.
But she had to wait 30 minutes in her ambulance before being transferred to the A&E department and was left a further six hours before being properly assessed by a doctor.
Emma, from Cosham, said: ‘It is ridiculous an elderly person had to wait that long.
‘We were all confused as to why she had to sit in a corridor for most of the night.
‘The hospital said they were just too busy.’
Ms Mulholland was taken to hospital from her home in Portsea at around 6pm.
But it was 1.30am before she was seen.
She was admitted to hospital and quickly recovered, returning home on Monday.
Emma added: ‘Nan is okay now and her treatment, once she was seen to, was fantastic.
‘But I think it was such a long time for her to wait.
‘The whole thing was ridiculous and should not be happening.
‘Even though it was over Christmas and New Year, that is no excuse.’
Waiting times in A&E departments hit 10-year low
WAITING times in accident and emergency departments across England have plummeted to their worst levels in more than a decade.
NHS England released statistics yesterday showing many hospitals failed to meet the target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within the four-hour time target, as the government admitted there was a ‘huge amount of pressure’ on the health service.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said hospital bosses feel they are ‘running just to keep still’ to cope with rising demand.
But he added: ‘We also have to recognise, despite the particular pressures, despite the major incidents – and you always get some major incidents at this time of year – that the NHS is continuing to see in A&E departments nine out of 10 people within the four-hour target.’
It is a marked fall on the worst performance recorded since the coalition came to power of 94.1 per cent at the start of 2013.
Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of operations and delivery for NHS England, said: ‘The figures show that, in the three months to the end of December, more than nine out of 10 A&E patients in England continued to be seen and treated in under four hours – the best
measured performance of any major Western country.’
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