The trust that runs Hull Royal Infirmary has urged people to stay away from its accident department unless they are “seriously ill or a person’s condition is considered life-threatening”.
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it has seen “bed occupancy exceed capacity” over the past week as “local hospitals deal with an increase in the amount of sick people admitted through the A&E Department at Hull Royal Infirmary”.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Leeds General Hospital and St James’s University Hospital, said it was also having to postpone some routine operations.
The developments came as Jeremy Hunt was accused of being “completely out of touch” with the scale of the problems facing A&E departments across the country.
Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said he found himself in “disbelief” after Mr Hunt rejected claims of a widespread crisis and said hospitals are performing slightly better than last year.
The trust in Hull said: “In order to free up beds and consultant time to ensure those with more urgent care needs can be accommodated, the trust will be postponing some routine elective operations and clinics.”
Kevin Phillips, Chief Medical Officer for Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Hospitals regularly come under pressure at this time of year, and we do have plans in place to deal with these, but over the last week we have seen a volume of patients been admitted in to our hospitals which is over and above what we would predict for this time of year.
“Many of these are very poorly people who are then being admitted to hospital, but there are still some which could be treated elsewhere.
“We are urging people to exercise common sense and to look at alternative treatment options unless they are seriously ill or a person’s condition is considered life-threatening. This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on the very poorly people who are within our hospitals at the moment.
“The decision to postpone any operation or clinic is not one we take lightly as we are mindful of the impact this can have on a patient and their family. However, to ensure those who require more urgent care needs, we are going to have to postpone some routine elective operations and clinics.”
Mr Phillips said patients affected would be notified and thanked medical staff at the hospitals involved.
The trust also runs Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, near Hull.
In Leeds, chief nurse and deputy chief executive Suzanne Hinchliffe said: “The NHS nationally is experiencing unprecedented levels of demand and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust is no exception.
“We are continuing to see high numbers of frail, elderly patients attending our A&E departments who are extremely ill and require admission to one of our hospitals.
“We are also experiencing difficulties discharging those patients who are medically fit to be discharged to more appropriate settings. This is as a result of our health and social care partners and providers facing similar pressures.
“Regrettably this means that we have needed to postpone a number of planned operations and these are decisions that we do not take lightly. We apologise to all our patients for the upset and inconvenience this causes.
“Our key priority at this time is to ensure that patients receive the safest possible care and our staff are working extremely hard to keep delays to a minimum.
“We are extremely grateful to our staff for everything they are doing at this very challenging time.
“We would urge patients who do not need urgent hospital treatment to use alternative services such as their GP surgery, NHS111, minor injury units or their community pharmacy.”
In a letter to NHS trusts, chief executive of NHS Improvement Jim Mackey said the focus needed to be on emergency patients at a “critical” time.
The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that a leaked email from Nottingham University Hospitals Trust showed the trust had seen approximately 215 patients every 24 hours and on Monday had record numbers of patients in A&E with 180 waiting to be seen.
Performance against the four-hour target for patients to be dealt with dipped to below 60% against a target of 95%.
The trust told staff it had admitted 395 more patients than it had discharged by Tuesday this week and declared a “black alert” throughout Tuesday and Wednesday before downgrading the alert to red status on Thursday morning.
In a separate internal message, Caroline Shaw, the trust’s chief operating officer, told staff: “We started today [Tuesday] virtually full after an incredibly challenging 48 hours. Waits to be seen were in excess of five hours for much of Monday ... at peak times, we were seeing one patient every 90 seconds.”
Speaking to HSJ, Ms Shaw said patients have been very ill. She said: “We have had high acuity, people have been really poorly. One indicator over the Christmas period is patients on hourly observations and that has increased by 15% so that demonstrates that the acuity is much higher.
“Part of the problem is the current community beds and social service access beds are up to capacity.”
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre in the city, said in a Tweet on Monday afternoon: “ED is v busy with 132 patients waiting in department with waits of more than 4hrs. Only attend in real emergency.”