1. ITV Report

Several hospital appointments postponed or cancelled due to pressures on NHS

10 hospitals trusts have declared a 'black alert' - the highest level of pressure. Photo: PA

'Routine' hospital appointments are being deferred to help hospitals combat severe winter pressures, health officials have announced.

10 hospitals trusts have declared a 'black alert' - the highest level of pressure.

This includes Royal Cornwall Hospitals, Taunton & Somerset Foundation Trust, Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust and Royal United Hospitals Bath.

It is a drastic step to try to free up hospital staff and beds. NHS England had also said that the deferral of non-urgent elective care - such as hip or knee replacements - should be extended until at least the end of the month.

Meanwhile, to free up doctors to care for patients with urgent need, day-case procedures and routine outpatient appointments should also be deferred until 31 January, officials said.

This will mean that senior hospital doctors can triage more patients in A&E, be available for phone advice for GPs and ensure that patients in hospitals are reviewed twice each day to help timely discharges.

NHS England also said sanctions for mixed sex accommodation breaches should be temporarily lifted.

The move comes after leading medics warned that every emergency department in the country is struggling to cope with winter pressures.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) warned that overcrowding in A&E departments leads to avoidable deaths.

It also cautioned that pressure on the system is leading to lengthy waits and patients being treated in corridors.

Meanwhile a number of ambulance services are also under severe pressure, with two even resorting to taxis to ferry patients to hospital.

A number of hospital trusts have declared that they are Operational Pressures Escalation Level 4 (OPEL4) which means: "Pressure in the local health and social care system continues to escalate leaving organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care. There is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised."

Darent Valley Hospital A&E in Kent, Royal Cornwall Hospital and University Hospitals Of Leicester NHS Trust and Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust have all said they have declared OPEL4 in the last week.

Meanwhile, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said the health system in the whole county has declared OPEL4.

The RCEM warned that overcrowding in A&E departments leads to avoidable deaths. Credit: PA

The RCEM and the Society for Acute Medicine both issued stark warnings over pressure.

Emergency medicine consultant Dr Adrian Boyle, chairman for quality at the RCEM, said: "Everybody is struggling at the moment".

It feels worse than the equivalent period last year.

This means that ambulances are waiting outside emergency departments waiting to offload, the emergency departments are full, clinical staff are working extremely hard to try and look after these patients, often having to treat patients in corridors, people suffering lengthy delays.

And we know that excessive crowding within emergency departments is associated with avoidable deaths."

– Dr Adrian Boyle, RCEM Chairman for Quality

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine said pre-Christmas, 43 trusts were more than 98% full - this was despite 3,000 extra beds in use.

I expect this to be at least doubled, maybe trebled today.

We are starting to report Australasian flu is beginning to appear which is worrying. We are seeing a lot of flu-like symptoms but as yet do not know if it is 'normal' or the Australasian strain."

– Dr Nick Scriven, Society for Acute Medicine President
  • So what other options do you have if you're not feeling well?

Members of the public with minor ailments and illness can:

  • Administer self-care by going to the pharmacy - A local pharmacist can provide over the counter remedies
  • Dial 111 - Calls to the NHS telephone helpline are free and the service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year
  • Go to minor injury units - there are centres available in Bristol, Clevedon and Yate offering treatment of minor injuries such as strains, sprains and broken bones.

Advice from your GP comes first. Please go to an A&E department if your GP or any other healthcare professional advises you to do so.