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Hospital declares ‘black alert’ as hundreds flood A&E

·3-min read

Watch: Hospitals across the country swamped by record numbers in A&E

A hospital has issued a ‘black alert’ as hundreds of patients flooded its A&E department – days after doctors across the NHS warned of pressure from record admissions.

Barnsley Hospital found itself at breaking point as the number of patients arriving at its emergency department each day passed 300, according to internal emails seen by The Independent.

The South Yorkshire hopital was forced to declare OPEL 4 status – referring to “operational pressures escalation level” – on Tuesday as it struggled to find beds. The “black alert” is the highest and is issued when a hospital is “struggling or unable to deliver comprehensive care” and patient safety is at risk.

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An email to staff warned of the already “pretty challenging” bed position, with more than 40 patients in the emergency department, 15 of whom were awaiting a bed.

This had escalated to 80 patients waiting in the emergency department by the evening, including 20 awaiting medical beds that were unavailable.

The spike in patient numbers is due to A&E sickness demand rather than Covid-related, The Independent understands.

Barnsley Hospital has issued a “black alert” status as numbers arriving at its A&E department top 300 per day (Google street view)
Barnsley Hospital has issued a “black alert” status as numbers arriving at its A&E department top 300 per day (Google street view)

The hospital’s acute medical unit was also said to be full on Tuesday morning, with 12 patients in the emergency department awaiting placement and only two beds available within the “medical bed base”.

An update later in the day told staff the hospital was being moved to OPEL 4 status as the trust was experiencing “severe pressures due to the flow of emergency patients into and through the hospital”.

Staff were encouraged to “do everything possible” to free up beds, including early reviews of all inpatients and “encouraging medical teams to facilitate discharge”.

It comes after The Independent revealed that hospital emergency departments across the UK have been experiencing record numbers of patients, raising fears lives could be lost.

A&E doctors revealed that in some units patients were waiting as long as nine hours to be seen, with overall numbers up by 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned that the situation was very serious and that emergency departments were being overwhelmed.

At least 30 hospitals across England have seen record levels of patients during June, stretching from Exeter and Plymouth in the south to hospitals in Middlesbrough, Manchester and elsewhere in the north of England.

On Tuesday, the North Middlesex Hospital in north London declared an internal incident after 700 patients attended its A&E department – the highest level since January 2020, when 684 were recorded in a single day.

The University Hospitals of Leicester trust also recorded its busiest day ever on Tuesday, with 925 patients, as did the University Hospitals of North Midlands trust in Stoke, which saw 866 patients.

At the University Hospitals Birmingham trust, which runs three A&E departments in the region, attendances have jumped from an average of around 900 per day in December 2019 to 1,350 this month.

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