Kettering General Hospital was forced to find more beds yesterday after a significant rise in A&E patients left them on black alert.
The trust declared an internal incident and was at escalation level Opel 4 – the highest level of operational pressure – where the strain leaves organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care.
As temperatures in the county topped 40C for the first time, and with a ‘danger to life’ weather warning, staff based at Rothwell Road were told to take urgent action to free up beds by focusing on discharges and avoiding unnecessary admissions.
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An email to staff, seen by the Northants Telegraph, said: "As part of this we will need to reduce more non-urgent clinics and procedures over the next few days, so our critical medical staff focus on this issue.”
The email said that due to soaring temperatures ambulance services were operating at their highest level, which was leading to significant waits for sick people.
It added: “In addition our hospital is already at capacity which is preventing us from accepting patients from EMAS (East Midlands Ambulance Service), causing further delays.”
But when contacted for comment a KGH spokesman said they didn’t stop taking ambulance patients and that all patients were accepted at the hospital yesterday.
The spokesman added that they took action to open an additional 35 beds and worked with local social care providers to discharge patients as soon as they were medically fit. They said that they currently have additional beds opened to manage the increase in admissions.
Kettering General Hospital’s chief executive Deborah Needham said: “We are working with our health and social care colleagues across the county to prioritise patients in need of the most urgent treatment, and ensure people are treated in the most appropriate setting for their illness or injury.
“Our staff have done an amazing job in coping with a significant increase in attendances in our A&E department over the last ten days and I am extremely proud of them for continuing to work extremely hard, ensuring the safety and care of all our patients.
“Unfortunately, when all parts of the NHS are under pressure, there can be delays transferring patients from ambulances into the hospital. But every patient who arrives by ambulance is assessed and receives ongoing treatment until they are safely admitted into our care.
“We would continue to urge the public to call 111 before attending our A&E department to ensure they are treated in the right place as quickly as possible.”
This afternoon a spokesman for EMAS said they continue to be busy. They said that, on an average day, they receive 3,473 calls. Yesterday they received more than 3,800 emergency calls, which included a number of heat-related incidents.
They urged people to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, stay in the shade or a cool part of their house, take extra precautions to keep babies and young children cool and hydrated and check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.
The spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with our NHS colleagues across Northamptonshire and, in addition, our ambulance crews continue to take our patients to the nearest available hospital which is the most appropriate for their care needs following a clinical assessment.”