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Somerset doctor: Help local NHS by avoiding A&E

Dr Ed Ford, Somerset CCG's GP Lead for Urgent Care Services urges the public to use their local health services responsibly by not using busy hospital A&E departments or calling 999 for an emergency ambulance with only minor illness.

The advice comes after some health and social care systems in the region declared 'Black Alert'status.

The current pressure upon Somerset's health and social care services is not simply a district hospital problem, but involves social care, GP’s, NHS111 and community services. There is some capacity in the community for patients to be treated but we are finding that some patients prefer to stay in the acute hospitals rather than be discharged into a community placement that is not their choice.

I would like to remind the public that they can help their local NHS by avoiding district hospital A&E Departments with only minor illness or ailments and making use of the many other services options available to them. If they are not sure what is the right health service for their needs they can use their local pharmacy or telephone NHS111, the free 24 hour NHS health helpline.

– Ed Ford

Operations postponed and A&E departments struggling

Operations have been postponed and A&E departments are struggling to meet targets as hospitals across the region remain on 'Black Alert'.

The exact number of operations cancelled haven't been disclosed.

The Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Southmead and Weston General Hospital all remain in system-wide black escalation status.

Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital and Bath's Royal United Hospital are on 'red alert' - one level below black.


5 out of 8 of our hospitals didn't hit their A&E target of seeing 95% of patients within 4 hours over the weekend.

Some were even falling as low as 60%.


Yeovil Hospital downgraded from black to red alert

The severe pressure on emergency services at Yeovil District Hospital has eased slightly, with the hospital no longer at "black alert".

The alert status has now been downgraded to "red alert", the second highest possible level of severity. The hospital is still very busy and says it is facing significant operational challenges.

Black alert occurs when the hospital can no longer deal with the number of patients coming into A&E because too few are being discharged.


  • Southmead Hospital
  • the BRI
  • Bristol Royal Hospital for Children
  • Weston General Hospital


A hospital on red alert means that wards are still very busy with limited bed space. All non-urgent work and clinics are usually cancelled so that resourced can be concentrated on the emergency services.

It also means urgent actions are required across the local health system by all partners to prevent the hospital going into black alert.

Top doctor: People still using A&E 'unnecessarily'

Bristol CCG Clinical Lead for Urgent and local GP Dr Peter Goyder has condemned those using A&E unnecessarily and warns it may lead to continued black alert status.

Over the previous two weeks, like many parts of the country, we have experienced a surge in demand on the local emergency and urgent care system. Our system on the whole has coped with this increased demand, but it is still under considerable pressure and we expect this to continue throughout the coming week.

However the evidence from hospital A&E Departments, including those at the BRI, Southmead Hospital and Weston General Hospital is that many people are still continuing to use A&E unnecessarily.

We all want the best care for ourselves and our families but if you are feeling under the weather, attending A&E may not be the answer. I would urge people to seek out advice from their pharmacist first, contact their GP or ring 111.

– Dr Peter Goyder

What does Black Alert mean?

So hospitals have announced that they're on 'black alert' - but what does this actually mean?

This is the highest level of alert, which usually means bed capacity has been reached and that patients arriving at A&E will have to be taken to another hospital. Sometimes routine operations will be cancelled to free up bed space.

NHS England classifies a black alert as a "serious incident". It means the system is under severe pressure and is unable to deliver certain actions and comprehensive emergency care.

It also means there is potential for emergency care and safety to be compromised. Decisive action must be taken to restore the hospital's capacity and ensure patient safety.

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