Hospital cancels non-emergency operations as winter pressure continues to bite

Emergency Department entrance

Staff at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust are tackling a large increase in the number of people requiring urgent medical attention.

As part of its response to the recent hazardous weather conditions, the Trust is cancelling some non-emergency operations, while planned admissions will be kept to a minimum.

Some patients may also be sent home earlier than usual as staff work to free up more beds to cope with the increased number of emergency referrals.

The Trust, which runs Southampton General Hospital, the Princess Anne Hospital and Countess Mountbatten House, has experienced eight days of sustained pressure, with increased numbers of patients needing to be admitted.

This follows an extremely busy Christmas period, which saw the average number of patients jump to almost 60 more per day than last year and an unprecedented 400 patients pass through the Emergency Department on one particular day.

The high volume of admissions has not relented following the start of last week’s harsh cold snap, which has increased pressure in the ED and throughout all departments.

As well as a significant rise in broken bones and older people suffering from breathing complications due to ice and freezing temperatures, many patients are being admitted with other complex conditions, requiring lengthy treatment by specialist teams before they are well enough to go home.

Steve McManus, chief operating officer at SUHT, said: "Since before Christmas we have seen a significant increase in visits to our Emergency Department, with high numbers of people injured as a result of slips and falls, as well as respiratory problems. We have been seeing twice the normal number of patients arrive in our ED on some days.

“We apologise to any patients who have had their operations cancelled, but we ask everyone to bear with us through what has been an exceptional few weeks for the hospital.”

Patients concerned about their health are urged to consider the full range of support available, including visiting www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk, telephoning NHS Direct on 0845 4647, visiting a local pharmacy, contacting their GP practice and visiting a local walk-in centre.

Posted on Wednesday 13 January 2010