THE British Red Cross has been called in to help an NHS trust struggling to cope with the demands on its casualty services.
In a first of its kind in Sheffield, home city of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the nationwide charity stepped in to transport some patients home after they were discharged from accident and emergency (A&E).
Hospitals across the country are facing increased pressures in their A&E departments, with waiting times at their to their worst levels for a decade.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they were currently facing an “unusual demand” and were very busy at this time.
But despite the increased demand, they said they were not using the Red Cross for emergency cases.
Dr David Throssell, Medical Director at the Trust, said: “The Red Cross are not helping with emergency patients they are simply providing ad-hoc support for a very small number of patients who need patient transport back home after they’ve been discharged.
“So far this has been for five patients, some of who live further afield and therefore, by using the Red Cross, this has left our normal patient transport services free to help with more urgent patients.
“Our staff and partners, like the Red Cross, are giving a fantastic response to the unusual demand we are experiencing and this is ensuring we are continuing to provide the care required.
“We are very busy but we have not declared a major incident, stopped taking ambulances or restricted patients coming to A&E if they are appropriate urgent care cases.”
The Star newspaper reported that Sir Andrew Cash, the Trust’s chief executive, had said in an internal email to staff that the pressure on emergency care was “unprecedented” with 100 people regularly in the department and 50 people waiting to be seen.
Andy Peers, British Red Cross operations manager for Yorkshire said: “Our volunteers are on hand to transport patients home from hospital in Sheffield on an ad-hoc basis, ensuring they get home safely and helping to relieve pressure on vital healthcare services.
“This is the first time we have provided such support in Sheffield - but we have highly trained volunteers and an extensive fleet of ambulance vehicles across the country, used regularly to support NHS ambulance services during both routine work and periods of high demand.
“We want to support our hardworking and essential NHS staff and are proud to be working alongside Sheffield Hospital Trust during this period of high demand.”