Urgent treatment remains the priority as Blackpool Victoria Hospital warns of ‘unprecedented pressure’

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Some non-urgent treatment has had to be cancelled at Blackpool Victoria Hospital as medics battle to prioritise the sickest patients while coping with the impact of rising Covid infections.

Urgent procedures remain a priority, a meeting of the hospital’s board of governors was told on Thursday, as health chiefs are faced with keeping services afloat in the face of rising demand and staff absences.

An internal critical incident was declared on Monday by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (BTH) in response to beds being at full capacity.

BTH chief executive Trish Armstrong-Child told the meeting: “We didn’t have enough beds for the 24 hours coming up so we had long waits in our emergency department.”

Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Blackpool Victoria Hospital

But she reassured the board and the public “this is an organisation and a team operationally and clinically in control and doing all they possibly can to keep our services going and our patients safe.”

It also means a setback for efforts to restore surgery and other treatment after waiting lists increased during lockdown.

There were 916 patients waiting more than a year for treatment in November, down from 1,046 the previous month, and 18 waiting for two years compared to a peak of 50 in July.

Natalie Hudson, chief operating officer at BTH, warned the hospital was “under unprecedented pressure” but measures were being taken to “keep services running as much as possible.”

She told the meeting the hospital was maintaining its clinically urgent procedures as well as treatment for those patients waiting longest.

But some non-urgent in-patient procedures and out-patient-clinics had had to be stood down “to redeploy medical doctors, to get them on the wards to support our ward rounds.”

The Emergency Department also continues to be under pressure with more than 200 attendances a day being a regular occurrence in November, and more than seven per cent of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E.

The Trust had the second highest ambulance attendance in the region in November, with 2,554 people conveyed to hospital, of whom nearly 300 had their transfer delayed by more than an hour.

Janet Barnsley, executive director of operations at BTH, told the board these pressures had worsened in December, and were predicted to become more challenging further into January.

An increase in Covid patients from 35 on Christmas Eve to 125, along with a staff absence rate of 12 per cent, had exacerbated matters.

At the same time there were currently 95 patients who no longer needed to be in hospital but had nowhere to be discharged to with the average waiting time for a care package mounting up to nine days.

However action has been taken including to increase the area which ambulances can use to offload patients, and finding more support for patients who no longer need to be in a hospital bed.