West Suffolk Hospital had to cancel routine operations over the Christmas and New Year period to ensure it could maintain the ‘safety and quality’ of its emergency department.
Even then some of the patients in A&E had long waits for which the hospital’s chief operating officer Jon Green, pictured left, apologised on yesterday.
But he also praised staff for they way they had coped and ensured everyone was seen and cared for, in spite of losing up to 100 beds as wards had to be closed due to a norovirus outbreak.
He said: “We had a couple of periods when we had to hold ambulances longer than we wish to, but not excessively. The patients were in the hospital, but we couldn’t release the crews.
“The department was still turning people round and though some people had long waits, they were cared for and in beds. We weren’t putting people in places we wouldn’t wish to put them.”
Over the year West Suffolk has been ranked among the best hospitals for meeting the Government’s target of dealing with 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours.
Mr Green said that with the hospital on the highest level of alert, its performance against that target had dropped over the two weeks during which they averaged 167 A&E patients a day, compared to 151 last year.
He added: “We’ve seen a drop in performance on the A&E target but we’ve maintained focus on the safety and quality. We probably haven’t given patients the experience we would want and I apologise for that.
“We’ve seen a high demand, particularly through A&E. There has been a high acuity, which means the level of sickness, particularly among old and frail people with respiratory problems.
“Everyone over Christmas would have had at least one family member with a chesty cold and if you’ve got an underlying condition or are old and frail, it will have hit you hard – that’s been a significant problem.”
He said he hoped the hospital would be back to ‘some sort of normality’ by the end of next week. Treatment in the hospital’s day care unit has continued normally.
The 1,000-bed Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, which was one of a number to declare a major incident, has had to convert part of its day surgery unit into a ward to cope with a 15 per cent increase in patients. For a time on Tuesday it had 100 people queuing outside A&E.