A hospital’s A&E department was under so much pressure that a senior doctor usually deployed only in cases of major disaster had to be sent in to help.
West Midlands Ambulance Service were forced to send their own medical incident officer to help beleaguered staff at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, as a shortage of beds resulted in some patients being treated in corridors.
It came as the weekly national figures from NHS England showed it has missed the four-hour waiting time target for the 28th consecutive week.
The proportion of patients seen within the Government maximum of four hours at A&E departments in England is below the target of 95 per cent which has not been met since September 28.
Worst performance in the country was again at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust where only 72.9 per cent of patients were seen in the target time.
Of 15 NHS trusts serving the region, only six hit the target - Airedale, Bradford, Harrogate, Leeds and both Sheffield teaching hospitals and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
NHS England said 92.5 per cent of patients spent four hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge in the week ending April 12. This was a slight improvement on the previous week, when it was 92.4 per cent.
The figures include data from last Friday, April 10, where the medical incident officer was sent in to help at Worcestershire Royal Hospital after months of problems.
The Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said the circumstances were “less than ideal”.
Unions said the fact the ambulance service had had to send in its own doctor to help was “totally unacceptable”, adding its members were “furious”.
The hospital trust said while pressure on beds had been “a constant issue” for over a year, the problem had been caused by pressures across the health system meaning it simply could not discharge patients quickly enough, resulting in a backlog.
The trust apologised and said a backlog of patients waiting to leave was having a knock-on effect in A&E.
On any given day the trust said about 70 patients are waiting to be discharged but only about 15 are going, because of delays getting home and nursing care packages in place for after they leave.
The trust said the problem had been building for more than a year.
It confirmed the Care Quality Commission had carried out an unannounced inspection in March, but it had yet to see the report.
Ray Salmon, regional organiser for Unison, described the situation as “completely unprecedented”.
He said: “One of our reps went public just after Christmas and blew the whistle about the problems and the trust tried to exclude him from the premises, we had a massive argument about that and I reckon that since then the problem is getting even worse.
“Then last week when the ambulance service had to bring in their own doctor, well that was actually just completely unprecedented, it’s really winding people up.”
The trust said no patients came to any harm during last Friday’s incident, but Mr Salmon said the situation was starting to affect patient care.
He said: “It’s a combination of bad planning and it’s also a combination of under-resourcing.
“We’ve been saying for years the Government hasn’t put enough money in to the NHS.
“You listen to the politicians at the moment and the gloating about what a great job they’ve done over the last five years, and they’re talking about what they’re going to do over the next five years.
“But the situation is at the moment there’s just not enough resources gone in, there’s not enough staff, and that’s affecting patients, it’s totally unacceptable.”
According to the latest NHS waiting times figures, there were 443,274 attendances in A&E for the seven-day period, up slightly on the previous week when it was 441,099.
Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, said: “The demands on the NHS remain high with an increase in the number of patients attending A&E this week.
“But in the face of this ongoing pressure we saw an improvement in performance and we continue to admit or treat and discharge more than nine out of 10 patients within four hours.”