Operations cancelled as Northampton's emergency department remains on 'high alert'

Patients are being urged to see a GP or a pharmacist as Northampton General Hospital's A&E faces another day at breaking point.
Patients are being urged to see a GP or a pharmacist as Northampton General Hospital's A&E faces another day at breaking point.

Sick and seriously ill people are stranded in A&E as hospitals across Northamptonshire spend another day at critical capacity.

Operations have been cancelled and patients have been left waiting hours as hospitals across the East Midlands remain on 'Black Alert' - the highest level, which means that bed capacity is full - for over a week now.

Hospitals are asking poorly people to think twice about attending A&E and instead ask their pharmacist or GP for help with non-urgent or life-threatening cases.

Northampton, Kettering, Peterborough and Milton Keynes hospitals are now all on "black alert."

Dana Stewert, a recent A&E patient from Northampton, said: “I went in on Tuesday. It was packed with people everywhere and staff rushed off their feet. It took five hours for me to be seen and receive treatment. But I also had no choice but to go as my GP was fully booked.”

Patients arriving at a "black alert" hospital will typically be sent to nearest available alternative for treatment, but with every hospital at full capacity patient turnover has slowed to a crawl.

A spokeswoman for Northampton General Hospital said: "We have a high proportion of our A&E patients needing to be admitted for further assessment or treatment and currently have more patients than available beds.

"We are diverting all available resources and activity to managing the care and admission of those very unwell patients. This means we have cancelled some non-urgent operations and we're very sorry to those people who have had an appointment cancelled.

"We are treating a high number of patients with respiratory illnesses who are very ill by the time they come to us in A&E so we are urging anyone who is managing a long-term condition to seek help from their pharmacist or GP as soon as they start to feel unwell. That could help to avoid a hospital admission.

"We're also asking people to really think about whether they need to come to A&E for treatment. If your illness or condition is not serious, you may have to wait a long time before seeing a doctor. In contrast, your local pharmacist can see you within minutes and is often a more appropriate choice for minor conditions."

The East Midlands Ambulance Service took 2,730 calls on Sunday, over a thousand more than on a typical day.

This led to the service ordering their paramedics to cut their lunch breaks down from 45 minutes to just 20 to handle the number of call-outs.

Many hospitals across the region are also unable to meet the 15 minute target set by the Government to accept and treat A&E patients, meaning ambulance crews cannot properly respond to new 999 calls.