Exeter hospital operating 'over capacity' due to 'extreme' pressure

  • Life inside Exeter's emergency department

Planned surgeries have been cancelled at Exeter's main hospital as "extreme pressure" on the NHS has led to it operating at a third over capacity.

High patient numbers, "sustained demand" for Covid beds and ongoing staffing issues at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) mean it has breached its capacity by more than 100 medical patients.

The hospital's emergency department had its busiest day so far this year on Sunday 10 October - staff saw 320 patients in total.

More than 120 ambulances attended the hospital on Sunday - compared to an average of 90.

Medics - who told ITV News they are "anxious" about what winter will bring - say there has been particular pressure on the children's emergency department due to breathing illnesses among young people.

Consultant Adam Reuben described the current situation as "an incredible challenge".

"I think it's also worrying that we're not in the depths of winter as yet," he added.

"We're struggling as it is and we're anxious about what's to come as the winter proceeds."

A spokesperson for the hospital told ITV News there are 30% more medical patients in the hospital than it is fully resourced for - the equivalent of more than 100 patients.

Issuing a plea for people to only attend A&E when there is a genuine, life-threatening emergency, Devon's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the county's whole health and social care system is under "extreme pressure".

Chair of the CCG Dr Paul Johnson said: “We really need you to support us. 

"Please ask yourself whether you have a genuine life-threatening emergency before attending an emergency department.

"If you are not in the right place, you may be redirected to a more appropriate service. This is because we need to safely prioritise those with the most urgent need.

“We are also asking people to pick up friends or relatives as soon as they are well enough to be discharged from hospital. This frees up beds for other patients who need them.

“Finally, we are seeing high numbers of children coming to hospital. There is a really useful HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses and when to seek help.”

  • Dr Anthony Hemsley, RDE Trust Medical Director, speaks to ITV West Country

The hospital's medical director also asked people to use other NHS services.

He said: "I recognise fully that as a parent any ill child is a real worry. 

"I think that although we are here at the RD&E to help and see people as necessary, because of the pressures that we're under I would also advocate the use of other agencies like NHS 111.

"Visiting community pharmacies is a really good idea - they offer excellent levels of advice and early treatment," he added.