HEALTH chiefs say their emergency departments ‘never close’ after claims the Accident and Emergency units at both Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital ‘shut their doors’ to ambulances.
Both units were reported closed on Monday (January 28) until 6.30am the following morning with patients diverted to Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said if a critically unwell patient needed to be brought in then they will be brought in and seen.
However, it added that under an agreement with University Hospitals Birmingham patients had been transferred overnight to Heartlands under a partial two-hour divert, and separately, that patients had also been transferred to Warwick Hospital.
Worcestershire Royal Hospital has well-documented capacity problems in its A&E department.
It only has 20 adult cubicles but often has more than 30 patients waiting for hospital beds which can lead to more than 20 patients on trolleys in corridors and more still waiting to be unloaded from ambulances.
It also acknowledges that at times there may not even be enough trolleys available, leading to sick patients waiting in the waiting room.
A trust spokesperson said: “At times when the hospitals are under pressure, we can ask neighbouring trusts and West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) to support us by taking patients to other hospitals where that is safe and appropriate, to help ease the pressure and reduce the risk of long handovers.
“With the assistance of WMAS and Heartlands Hospital, we agreed a brief (two hours) partial divert – maximum two patients per hour – overnight and WMAS crews also used their judgement to assess other patients who could be taken to other hospitals.
“We are grateful for their support and the support from the other hospitals at a time when we know they are also very busy.
“We are also working with other health and care organisations to use all available capacity across the county, for example beds in local community hospitals, and elsewhere, for example the 20 beds which recently opened for our use at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust.”
The spokesperson added that both the Royal and the Alex remained extremely busy, and this was continuing to cause issues with ambulance handovers.
“We recognise the difficulties this can cause for WMAS and are working hard to try to free up capacity to enable ambulances to unload as a matter of urgency.
“We would strongly encourage local people to help us during this very busy time by using the wide range of alternatives to A&E which are available locally if they can.”
Options include contacting your GP, pharmacy, Minor Injury Units and the NHS111 service. More details on all of these are available at www.worcestershire.nhs.uk/winter/