Hospitals on second highest alert level as winter crisis continues

Urgent measures are being taken to tackle overcrowding in hospitals after safety warnings were issued.

Hospitals in Leeds and Wakefield have been at the second highest alert level after struggling to treat all the patients turning up at A&E.

Latest figures released by NHS England show that NHS trusts around the country struggled to cope as a winter crisis continued into the first week of the year.

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For five days last week, Leeds Teaching Hospitals and Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust were both at Operational Pressures Escalation Level (OPEL) 3, latest figures show.

OPEL 3 means hospitals and social care services are “experiencing major pressures compromising patient flow”.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals was still at OPEL 3 today, a spokesman confirmed.

Mid Yorkshire, which runs Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals, has urged people on to go to A&E if they are in a genuine emergency.

The highest alert level is OPEL 4, which means hospitals are unable to look patients properly and safety could be compromised.

The OPEL system was introduced in December to standardise the reporting of hospitals struggling with demand.

Previously terms like ‘black alert’ or ‘major incident’ were used by NHS trusts.

More than 50 NHS trusts were on OPEL 3 on January 7 and 8, according to figures released today by NHS England.

Staffing problems and a surge in A&E attendances have been causing long delays in emergency departments and patients stuck in beds waiting to be discharged.