Hospital declares ‘critical incident’ with 25 ambulances waiting as demand peaks

Royal Cornwall Hospital boss Dr Allister Grant urged patients’ relatives and friends to help get them home so other people in ‘urgent need’ can use the hospital beds

A hospital has declared an ‘internal critical incident’ after more than 25 ambulances queued up outside the emergency department.

Some 100 people went to the Royal Cornwall Hospital’s A&E unit on Wednesday night, despite the facility having a maximum capacity of 40.

The situation has been exacerbated by so-called ‘bed blockers’ – patients in hospital who should be receiving care in nursing facilities or their own homes.

The hospital’s medical director Dr Allister Grant said: “There is unprecedented demand on health and care services in Cornwall, more so this week than at any point during the pandemic.

“As a result we have escalated our operational level from OPEL4 to an internal critical incident.

“Pressure will always be most visible at the emergency department where ambulances are waiting, our priority here is to move people into wards as soon as we can.

“(On Wednesday night) there were 100 people in the emergency department – it is designed to accommodate 40 at any one time – and more than 25 ambulance crews waiting to handover patients to go to their next call.

“Even though they are already working extraordinarily hard, our staff are supporting the opening extra impatient areas not only in our hospitals but in care homes who have beds available but not the staff to open them.”

He urged family and friends to offer support to anyone waiting for home care to leave hospital saying that ‘getting someone home a day or two sooner will mean we can free up a vital hospital bed for someone else in urgent need’.

There have been around 200 patients in the main hospital and other local hospitals who are bed blocking because of the lack of care home spaces.

Ambulance crews have tweeted the huge queues of ambulances stacked up outside the A&E department at the hospital.

And the boss of the South Western Ambulance Service Will Warrender has said that 30% of his ambulances have been stacked up with patients at various hospitals waiting to off load them.

He said on one day this week 900 hours of crew time had been lost because of this.

Waiting times at some Westcountry hospitals to see doctors has been up to 25 hours.

At Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital, chief said ‘in the past 24 hours, 320 patients have attended our Emergency Department, of which 100 were brought in by ambulance’.