Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsens

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People forced to "lie on the floor in pain" at Aintree Hospital earlier this week (Image: Liverpool Echo)
People forced to "lie on the floor in pain" at Aintree Hospital earlier this week (Image: Liverpool Echo)

An A&E patient was forced to wait 99 hours for a bed last week, it is reported as the NHS struggles to cope with crippling demand.

More than a dozen hospital Trusts and ambulance services have declared critical incidents over the past seven days, meaning they can no longer provide safe levels of care.

A severe flu outbreak and rising Covid cases are said to be adding pressure to the system and overwhelming hospitals with patients.

Last week, one in five ambulance patients in England waited more than an hour to be handed over to A&E teams.

And in one horrifying example, a patient at Great Western Hospital in Swindon was left on a trolley for over four days until a bed freed up.

Baby boy has spent his life in hospital as doctors are 'scared' to discharge him rridqziqtqitinvBaby boy has spent his life in hospital as doctors are 'scared' to discharge him
Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsensParamedics treating patients at the entrance to A&E at Aintree Hospital (Liverpool Echo)
Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsensPeople are reportedly being treated in ambulances outside hospitals (Liverpool Echo)

One clinician at the hospital told the Sunday Times: “We’re broken and nobody is listening.”

And Jon Westbrook, Great Western’s chief medical officer, told staff in a leaked message: "We are seeing case numbers and [sickness] that we have not seen previously in our clinical careers."

A spokesperson for Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Great Western Hospitals, like the wider NHS, is currently facing very high demand from patients who need a hospital bed.

"This does mean that some patients are having to wait a long time to be admitted to a ward. Whilst any patient is waiting for a bed in one of our assessment areas, they continue to receive diagnostic investigations, continuous treatment and supervision from our teams.

“There are regularly over 100 patients across Great Western Hospital who are medically fit to go home but are waiting for a bed in the community, such as in nursing or care homes, and this is a key factor impacting on wait times.

“In this context, our teams are working tirelessly with other organisations including our social care colleagues to get people home as soon as they are able so that we can free up more beds."

Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsensCorridors made into make-shift wards in Aintree Hospital (Liverpool Echo)
Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsensPatients lying on the floor at one hospital's A&E (Liverpool Echo)

They added: "We have also taken a number of additional actions in recent weeks to seek to reduce delays for urgent and emergency patients in recognition of the very challenging position the NHS is facing this winter.

“In turn, local people can also help us by only coming to hospital if they really need to, and using the NHS 111 service in the first instance who can direct to the most appropriate healthcare setting for a patients needs."

The report comes as a senior healthcare official warns as many as 500 people could be dying each week because of delays to emergency care.

President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Adrian Boyle, believes waiting times for December will be the worst he has ever seen, with more than a dozen NHS Trusts and ambulance services declaring critical incidents over the festive period.

Disabled woman paralysed after falling from wheelchair on plane walkway diesDisabled woman paralysed after falling from wheelchair on plane walkway dies

Speaking to Times Radio, Dr Boyle said: "We went into this December with the worst-ever performance against our target and the highest-ever occupancy levels in hospital.

"We don't know about the waiting time figures because they don't come out for a couple of weeks; I'd be amazed if they're not the worst ever that we've seen over this December.

Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsensA severe flu outbreak and rising Covid cases are said to be adding pressure to the system (Liverpool Echo)

"What we're seeing now in terms of these long waits is being associated with increased mortality, and we think somewhere between 300-500 people are dying as a consequence of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care each week. We need to actually get a grip of this."

In November, 37,837 patients waited more than 12 hours in A&E for a decision to be admitted to a hospital department, according to figures from NHS England.

This is an increase of almost 355% compared with the previous November, when an estimated 10,646 patients waited longer than 12 hours.

Dr Boyle said: "If you look at the graphs, they all are going the wrong way, and I think there needs to be a real reset. We need to be in a situation where we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say 'This winter was terrible, let's do nothing until next winter'.

"We need to increase our capacity within our hospitals, we need to make sure that there are alternative ways so that people aren't all just funnelled into the ambulance service and emergency department.

Patient forced to wait 99 hours for bed as NHS winter crisis worsensRows of unused ambulances are seen outside Kenton Ambulance Station during a strike over pay (Getty Images)

"We cannot continue like this - it is unsafe and it is undignified."

Some ambulances have reportedly been unable to pick up those in need because they have been stuck waiting to hand over patients to hospital.

NHS trusts have a target of 95% of all ambulance handovers to be completed within 30 minutes, and 100% within 60 minutes.

Dr Boyle said it is "absolutely never too late" to get a flu vaccination and encouraged those who are eligible to get one in order to reduce pressure on hospitals.

He said there is likely to be a larger outbreak this year because immunity has dropped after isolation measures introduced to fight the Covid pandemic.

He added: "Flu and Covid cause a number of problems. First of all you have patients who need to be admitted to hospital, but you also get staff getting sick, and that creates a workforce problem.

"And it's also incredibly disruptive for the hospital because you have to put them into separate areas and separate wards. We can't look after people in hospital where people without flu are next to people with flu, because we don't want to give people who get admitted into hospital the flu.

"So the whole thing of infectious disease outbreak is extremely disruptive. We haven't had an outbreak for the last two years because of all the things we have done around Covid and this year is shaping up to be a pretty awful flu season."

Katie Weston

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