Health bosses are urging people not to go to Northampton General Hospital unless absolutely necessary after cancelling some operations due to a rise in attendances over Christmas and New Year.
Attendances at both Kettering and Northampton General Hospitals continue to rise since the New Year, causing significant pressures in both A&E departments.
It means the hospitals are coping with an unusually large number of patients who are acutely ill and need high priority hospital care.
Northampton General Hospital saw 2,895 patients at their A&E Department in the 10-day period between Christmas Day and Sunday, January 3, 782 of whom required emergency admission.
This represents an eight per cent increase in attendances for the same period last year, and a four per cent rise in admissions.
In order to cope with the additional demand Northampton Hospital has cancelled non-urgent operations and made additional beds available.
Deborah Needham, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive at Northampton Hospital, said: “The number of acutely unwell patients attending A&E and requiring urgent hospital admission has inevitably had an impact on all services. “We have cancelled all non-urgent elective operations and I apologise to those patients who have had their operations cancelled.
“It’s not a decision we take lightly but it is necessary so we can focus all our attention on providing safe care for our most critically ill patients.
“Clearly our staff are extremely busy dealing with medical emergencies so we are urging people only to come to hospital in a real emergency.
“If in any doubt about the most appropriate service for your needs, call NHS 111.”
Kettering General Hospital saw its highest ever level of attendance to the A&E department last week (December 28 to January 3) with 1,710 people attending over that week – an average of 244 per day.
This was a 22.1 per cent increase on the same period last year when there were 1,401 attendances.
Kettering Hospital’s interim chief operating officer David Donegan said: “We are experiencing a surge in attendance and that is impacting on the hospital by increasing waits in the A&E department and putting pressure on our bed capacity and discharges.
“It has also led to the cancellation of some routine operations.
“I am sure people will appreciate that it is important for our staff concentrate on caring for patients who are in most need of our specialised care.
“We apologise for any delays or cancellations that have resulted from the current pressures.”
During the same 10-day period, there was a three per cent increase in the number of Northamptonshire people who needed an ambulance response from East Midlands Ambulance Service (2,528 patients) when compared to the same time last year, and a five per cent increase in the number of patients that needed taking to hospital for further assessment and treatment (1,575 patients).
Both hospitals are continuing to see a large number of patients at their A&E departments with minor injuries and illnesses for which they could be treated elsewhere.
Dr Matthew Davies, GP and clinical executive of NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It is really vital that we keep A&E free for those who really need it for medical emergencies.
“Wherever possible we urge people to see their pharmacist or their own GP first.”
To help ease the pressure, people are being advised to:
- Only attend A&E departments or the Urgent Care Centre if their condition cannot be seen by a GP or pharmacist and is clearly very serious
- Not attend or visit hospitals with stomach bugs or colds or flu symptoms – norovirus circulating in the local community can spread quickly and impact on hospital capacity
- When in doubt about whether you need NHS support start by using health advice services such as the NHS 111 helpline or NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk)
- Treat common colds, flu and minor illnesses with advice and support from local pharmacists
Dr Matthew Davies added: “The weather may be mild, but winter has come early for the NHS.
“As we move into 2016, and the colder weather sets in, we expect that these pressures will remain.
“We would like to reassure patients that our main consideration, as always, is to deliver safe, high quality care.
“When we are very busy like this it means that waiting times are increased as the sickest patients are given priority.
“If you are feeling unwell and considering A&E, please ask yourself is this a real emergency? Can I receive the help and treatment I need quicker by using another NHS service?
“By acting appropriately people will help hospitals to concentrate their attention on the currently large numbers of people who need urgent hospital care.”