Covid cases put Yorkshire hospitals under 'severe strain' as hundreds face 12-hour waits

Almost 2,000 patients had to wait more than 12 hours to be admitted for treatment at A&Es in Yorkshire and Humber last month as local hospitals came under “severe strain” - due in part to widespread Covid cases.

Across the country, a record 22,506 had to wait more than 12 hours in emergency departments in England in March between a decision to admit and actually being admitted.

In hospitals in Yorkshire and Humber, the situation affected 1,857 patients.

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The problem was most acute for the York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which has A&E departments at Scarborough and York Hospitals and where 696 such cases were recorded.

Scarborough Hospital is among the local hospitals that have seen patients waiting over 12 hours to be admitted for emergency treatment.

A spokesperson for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said today apologised for the situation.

They said: “In recent weeks we have seen a record number of patients in our hospitals who have tested positive for Covid-19. This puts our hospitals under severe strain when coupled with increased staff absence and high numbers of patients waiting to be discharged who no longer need to be in hospital. This has an impact on our emergency departments, resulting in patients waiting longer for beds to become available.

“We recognise that this means some patients will spend a long time in the emergency department before they are admitted to a ward, and we are sorry for this. We are working with our partner health and care organisations including the ambulance service and social care providers to reduce delays for patients from when they arrive in the emergency department through to when they are ready to go home.”

A further 577 patients were affected at the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which has emergency departments at hospitals in Grimsby and Scunthorpe.

Ambulances outside Leeds General Infirmary earlier this year

At Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which has emergency departments at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital, a further 356 patients faced waits of over 12 hours.

Clare Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have seen an increase in Emergency Department attendances from people who are acutely unwell. This places additional pressure on our teams to see patients in a timely way, despite our ambulance handovers remaining the fastest in the region.

“We are working collaboratively with citywide colleagues in the NHS, social care and with third sector partners to safely discharge patients who no longer need treatment in hospital, to free up beds for those that need them.

“There are 147 patients with Covid-19 in our hospitals and I am grateful to our teams for their commitment to managing the challenges that this brings when admitting patients from our Emergency Departments.

“Patients with life-threatening illness or injury are prioritised for treatment in our Emergency Departments.”

Waits of over 12 hours for admission also affected 155 patients in Hull last month.

The new figures come just weeks after six A&E departments in Yorkshire urged patients to stay away unless they ‘really need’ to visit.

On Sunday, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said there were “four big inter-related challenges” facing the NHS - the ongoing impact of Covid, urgent and emergency care pressures, backlogs and staff shortages.

He said on Twitter that in an NHS Providers board meeting last week, health leaders “agreed this was the longest most sustained period of NHS pressure they had seen in their careers”.

He said there were “much higher levels of Covid prevalence” than had been predicted, with 15,000 patients with Covid in English hospital beds on April 14 - almost double the 8,000 seen six weeks ago.

Mr Hopson said while the vaccine programme meant serious illnesses and fatalities from Covid were lower, the “operational consequences” were the same for hospitals.

He added there were major pressures on emergency care, including “worryingly high levels of delays in answering 999 calls, conveying patients to hospital, ambulance handover delays outside hospitals, 12 hour waits in A&E and delays for urgent mental health care”.

'No illusions on scale of challenge'

NHS England said emergency departments remain under significant pressure with 2.17m people attending A&E in March, a spike of nearly 20 per cent month to month and the highest March ever.

That came on top of staff dealing with 170,000 inpatients with Covid during winter, and 3.7 million days being lost due to Covid-related staff absences in the same period. But NHS bosses highlighted cuts to the numbers of people waiting the longest for hospital treatment despite the other pressures.

A total of 23,281 people in England were waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of February, down slightly from 23,778 at the end of January.

NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Nobody should be under any illusion about how tough a job NHS staff have on their hands, balancing competing priorities and maintaining high quality patient care.

“Despite pressure on various fronts and the busiest winter ever for the NHS, long waits fell as staff continue to tackle two-year waits by July thanks to the innovative approaches to care they are now adopting – from same day hip replacements to dedicated mobile hubs for operations.”

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