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Watford General Hospital A&E so overcrowded patients sent to Lister Hospital in Stevenage
Watford General Hospital’s A&E department reached crisis point this week when it had to turn away ambulances after becoming overwhelmed by emergency admissions.
Emergency patients were sent as far away as the Lister Hospital in Stevenage after a reported three-hour backlog that built up in the early hours of Tuesday.
Hospital trust chief executive, Samantha Jones, said A&E was “extremely busy”, and a significant number of patients had to be admitted into the hospital’s wards.
Ambulances were asked to divert emergency patients to other local hospitals between 7.20am and 9.30am on Tuesday. The department was still open to patients arriving by car or on foot.
This comes after figures obtained by the Watford Observer revealed emergency admissions to the hospital have almost doubled since 2007.
Watford General Hospital and the Lister Hospital in Stevenage are now the only full time accident and emergency departments in the county, since Hemel Hempstead closed in 2009, and the QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City reduced its service to daytime only last year.
The number of emergency patients admitted to Watford General Hospital from St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Watford rose from 4,931 in 2007 to 8,046 last year.
The number of patients travelling from Hemel Hempstead has more than doubled from 879 in 2007 to 2,205 last year, and the number from St Albans has more than quadrupled. In 2012/13, 122 patients had to wait more than eight hours to be seen by an A&E doctor.
In a statement released by the hospital, trust chief executive Samantha Jones, said: “The decision to divert ambulances was not taken lightly.
“However, our priority, as always, was to ensure our patients receive the best possible, safe care and the divert helped to ensure we could do this.
“I understand that approximately three ambulances were diverted during the period and I apologise to those patients that had to go to a hospital which was further away. Our last divert was in March 2013.”
Ms Jones attributed the busy spell to an increase in the number of people who requiring a ward bed, many of whom are elderly and have complex conditions.
Bed occupancy has been above the trust’s target of 80 per cent since 2006. In 2010/11, the hospital was 90 per cent full.
A paramedic who works for the East of England Ambulance Trust, said it was the lack of beds available for emergency patients which led to a backlog in A&E, forcing the hospital to divert ambulances elsewhere.
Ms Jones added: “There are a significant number of patients on our wards who are clinically fit to be discharged, but need additional support to leave, whether it’s finding them a suitable place in a care home or for them to receive additional care in their own home.
“On Tuesday, there were 45 patients in our hospitals who no longer required acute hospital care, but needed support out in the community, at home or in residential care homes.”
Ms Jones said the trust is working with other NHS partners to ensure patients have prompt access to the services they need, which will help free up our beds.
Earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the hospital and found there were not enough staff to meet people’s needs.
A&E staff told CQC inspectors the closure of the emergency department at the QEII in Welwyn Garden City “had an unexpected impact on the number of people” treated in Watford.
Ms Jones added: “In September our trust board agreed to spend an additional £3.9m on an annual basis on employing 160 new nurses and 35 midwives to help staff our wards.
“We have also employed new consultants and other clinicians.
“Despite the emergency services being very busy, 96 per cent of people using them were seen, treated, discharged or admitted in a maximum of four hours, against a Government standard of 95 per cent.
“The feedback we receive from our patients is, in the main, extremely positive.
“For example, during July, 76 percent of those questioned said they were ‘extremely likely’ and 20 percent ‘likely’ to recommend our wards and A&E to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment.
“Just three people said they were ‘extremely unlikely’ to recommend us.”
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