Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has reportedly been on ‘black alert’, the highest level, for nearly a fortnight. A black alert means that all actions have failed to contain service pressures and a hospital is running at full capacity, admissions are often temporarily closed, special escalation beds are in use, patients are forced to wait in Accident and Emergency (A&E) for beds, and routine surgeries are cancelled.
The black alert at Addenbrooke’s Hospital has been blamed on critical staff shortages and a sudden rise in the number of patients coming in through the A&E department. The hospital has cancelled operations and patients who have come in through A&E cannot be moved to elsewhere in the hospital due to lack of beds.
Concerns have been raised by patient groups at the number of instances of black alerts and the number of days the hospital remained on black alert over the past few years. In 2010/11 the hospital was on black alert for 89 days and in 2012/13 for 190 days.
Cambridge University Hospitals has written to GPs across the region urging them to consider alternatives to directing their patients to A&E. The letter advised that: “The trust continues to experience severe capacity pressures across all areas. We have planned admissions on hold. We have contingency areas open. We are no longer able to place patients from the emergency department. We have critical staffing levels.”
A trust spokesman said that there are shortages in a ‘number of areas’ for clinical staff but added they have had ‘some success’ with their recruitment campaign. He added: “The trust has seen an increase in A&E attendances of 9% in April, May and June compared with the same time last year. We are working hard to ensure we have sufficient bed capacity in the organisation for our emergency patients.”
The hospital has confirmed that it will continue to treat life-threatening injuries but non-critical patients would be sent elsewhere.
Emily Palmer, clinical negligence solicitor at the Cambridge office of Penningtons Manches, commented: “These types of capacity issues are more commonly seen during the winter months with unanticipated spikes in levels of illness or injury and it is worrying to see a hospital at full capacity in summer because of staff shortages.”