1:03pm Thursday 17th January 2013
By Lawrence Dunhill
ANOTHER surge in patients led to "serious operational problems" at Stoke Mandeville Hospital over the weekend, according to official reports.
Health chiefs issued a public appeal for the second week running on Saturday night to try and ease pressure on accident and emergency staff - urging patients with less serious problems to consider other NHS services.
Winter illnesses such as norovirus have been heaping pressure on hospital staff across Britain in recent weeks, with well over a million people hit by the vomiting bug.
Although norovirus should not normally require a visit to a hospital or GP, it can often aggravate other illnesses which then need a hospital visit.
Sarah-Jane Fell, from Totteridge in High Wycombe, said her father was forced to wait eight hours in A&E at Stoke Mandeville on Friday evening before being admitted to a bed in a corridor.
The 40-year-old told the Bucks Free Press: "He was in the corridor for another 12 hours before being moved to a ward.
"My dad’s had bladder cancer and was suffering from a blockage in his liver and the doctors actually asked us to make a formal complaint."
"The A&E ward isn’t finished and they just can’t cope. The place isn’t big enough and there wasn’t even a spare seat... there were even people sitting on the floor.
"They took time to make sure the maternity ward was bigger at Stoke before they shut the one at Wycombe, but why didn’t they make sure the A&E ward was all finished here before the closures at Wycombe?"
"And the car park there was absolutely full, you can’t get a space up there."
Wycombe Hospital’s emergency room was closed in October, meaning more than 100 more south Bucks patients are travelling north to Stoke Mandeville each week.
Work to expand the A&E ward at Stoke Mandeville is still continuing, but hospital bosses insist they have made temporary arrangements to deal with the extra patients.
All hospitals are required to send regular reports to the Department of Health to highlight where services are under pressure.
Stoke Mandeville’s weekend report said it experienced "serious operational problems" on Saturday, which was brought on by "increased pressures in A&E and bed shortages".
There were 550 A&E attendances from Friday to Sunday, while bed stats show the hospital was close to full capacity, with 427 out of 435 beds occupied.
The reports suggest staff coped reasonably well, however, with no cancelled operations or ambulance handover delays of more than 30 minutes.
Fourteen out of 159 hospital trusts reported serious operational problems at the weekend, with about 200 operations cancelled and 1,600 ambulance handover delays nationally.
Wexham Park Hospital said its A&E attendances were within expected levels at the weekend, while the John Radcliffe in Oxford said pressure had eased since the first week in January, when the hospital was "full to capacity".
Sarah Hills, a spokesman for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which controls Stoke Mandeville, said the new A&E space is due to be ready at the end of March, when the existing area can then be refurbished.
She added: "Whilst work is ongoing, we have ensured that we have sufficient capacity to deal with patients attending A&E who require our urgent care services...
"By consolidating our emergency services onto one site at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, we have been able to ensure patients continue to have access to a team of specialist doctors and nurses during this busy period."
She stressed that hospitals across the country are experiencing similar pressures as a result of winter illnesses, adding: "We continue to remind people that they should consider all options available when they are unwell, including the minor injuries and illness unit, their GP or pharmacist, and only to use their local A&E department if they are seriously unwell or critically injured."
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