Hospitals to turn A&E patients away after declaring critical incident

Exclusive: NHS region ‘overwhelmed’ by emergency care demand admits patients are being harmed

Rebecca Thomas
Tuesday 20 December 2022 17:14 GMT
Minister calls on unions to guarantee ambulances for heart attack patients during strike

NHS leaders in the West Midlands have admitted patients are coming to harm as “extreme pressure” pushes A&Es to turn patients away regardless of if they are accepted elsewhere, The Independent has learned.

Emergency departments in Worcestershire and Redditch health system have declared a critical incident and warned of delays in off-loading patients from ambulances to A&E.

Hospitals in the region may be forced to put ITU patients in corridors if pressures on A&Es and ambulances aren’t mitigated, according to an email seen by The Independent.

It comes as hospitals and ambulance services across the country have declared critical incidents with unprecedented strikes taking place today, with nurses, and on Wednesday when thousands of ambulance staff are set to strike.

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Sources have told The Independent emergency and urgent care services across the country over the last 48 hours are experiencing the highest levels of demand and delays ever seen.

Leaders across the system have been told, in an email today, that patients who do not need emergency care will be advised and directed to an alternative setting. It added this will not necessarily be settings where they will be accepted.

Some patients, those who are no longer acutely unwell and can be assessed at home, will be discharged from hospital bed “regardless of whether capacity has been agreed.”

It told leaders additional capacity for Stoke service would be needed within the next 24 hours.

If these actions fail to reduce pressures then hospitals in preparing to put staff in ITU corridors “has been discussed” the email said.

The Independent understands this would mean putting looking after ambulance patients in the ITU corridor.

The email added: “Colleagues the actions described above – in particular turning patients away from ED and Discharging “at Risk” (of capacity) are very significant actions which highlight the seriousness of the operations and clinical challenges faced.

The system is likely to remain on the critical incident for the next 48 hours.

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