A black alert has been issued at Princess Royal Hospital and Royal Sussex County Hospital as staff struggle to cope with an ‘exceptionally busy’ A&E department.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, which also runs the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, said there are not enough beds to meet the demand – with long waiting times for patients.
The alert triggers a response where doctors, nurses, health care assistants and managers work to increase the number of patients being discharged.
Sherree Fagge, chief nurse at the trust, said: “The staff response has been superb, including staff from other areas of the hospital who have come to join the emergency department teams. We are confident that we are keeping patients safe, but it is a very tough environment for staff to work in at the moment.”
The alert was downgraded to a red alert on Thursday, which means the hospital is still under pressure – very few beds free for patients.
The trust said all patients who do have to wait are seen by a clinician within 20 minutes of arriving at the hospital.
People are being urged to use alternative services such as NHS 111 if they do not need emergency treatment.
Gary Palmer, from workers’ union the GMB said: “There are continued cuts and under funding of the health service. Spending 12 to 20 hours in A&E is frighteningly becoming the norm.
“The public aren’t going to be fooled that it is a winter pressure. The fact that staff are increasingly under pressure to provide the marvellous service they do means that cracks are going to appear in the service they deliver.”
The trust is preparing for another challenge as junior doctors plan to take part in three more 48-hour strikes, following the government’s decision to impose a contract.
Industrial action will take place from 9-11 March, 6-8 April, and 26-28 April. If the strikes go ahead, hundreds of operations could be cancelled or postponed.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chairman, said: “Imposing this contract will seriously undermine the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain junior doctors in areas of medicine with the most unsocial hours, where there are already staffing shortages.”
Doctors are arguing the contract is not ‘safe and not fair’.
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