Basildon hospital was forced to call its first internal critical incident in years and cancel ”significant amounts” of elective work last week due to a lack of available beds.
Basildon and Thurrock Hospital Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said emergency admissions reached such a high level that staff were not able to tell admitted patients how long they would have to wait for a bed.
“We simply cannot balance the number of very sick people we already have in our beds with the extra people arriving in A&E”
The trust was forced to upgrade from a “black alert” to internal critical incident on Thursday. A trust spokeswoman said the situation had lasted “under 24 hours” and had been the first such incident for a number of years.
The organisation said it had taken the “very unusual step …due to a lack of beds in Basildon Hospital” and followed the trust being on “black” alert for more than a week.
A statement added: “The trust has been unable to discharge enough patients to meet the demands of new patients arriving in A&E. An internal critical incident is a step up from ‘black’ alert.”
The move followed nearby Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust declaring an internal critical incident at the beginning of October, in the latest indication of mounting pressure trusts in South Essex.
Basildon “cancelled significant amounts” of elective work and drafted in “non-clinical staff…to support wards and other clinical areas wherever possible”, as part of measures to address the bed shortage, said the trust.
It has struggled against the four-hour A&E target in recent years, with performance at 80% against the 95% target for the first quarter of 2016-17. Despite these challenges, the trust currently has a “good” rating from the Care Quality Commission and successfully exited “special measures” in 2014.
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Trust deputy chief executive Tom Abell said: “This has been a difficult decision to make. We are well versed in responding to peaks in demand and our dedicated staff rise to the challenge, sometimes working extra hours, sometimes taking on different roles.
“However, the current waiting times for patients in A&E are unacceptable,” he said. “Despite our best efforts, we simply cannot balance the number of very sick people we already have in our beds with the extra people arriving in A&E, so we need to do something different.”