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As Derriford Hospital announced an internal critical incident due to “high pressure on urgent care”, a South Western Ambulance Service paramedic has spoken out anonymously.
The SWASFT paramedic said: “We have always been on the edge, we’ve had resources taken away in the last five years.
“But I’ve never seen twenty ambulances waiting outside for seven, eight or nine hours at a time.”
They said that during the day shift on Tuesday, an ambulance coming from Totnes (one of just two that covers the South Hams) arrived with their patient at 10am and didn’t get into the hospital until 7.30pm, calling it “a scandal”.
“There’s no space in the hospital because there are no social care beds or carers for people who need to be discharged. Three Covid wards at Derriford, staff are off isolating, staff who have left due to stress or Brexit. Staff being pulled from other wards to cover A&E but then there’s nowhere to move patients to.
“Our ambulances are being used as an extension of A&E- we’re giving treatment, toileting patients, feeding them because they’re with us for eight hours. And then we hear calls on our radio asking for crews to be available for category one emergencies and none of us can clear to help.”
This is just at the same time, on Tuesday morning, that Jo Beer, Chief Operating Officer at Derriford hospital told staff and the public that they were operating an “internal critical incident”.
Her statement read: “This is due to the high pressure on urgent care services and increasing demand for COVID beds. We currently have 99 COVID positive patients across Derriford and our three community hospitals and just under 500 staff absent for COVID-related reasons.
“We don't want people to be alarmed by this. We took the decision to escalate to the highest level of internal incident because this allows us to be able to take additional steps to maintain safe services for our patients and help us cope with the growing pressures.
“Please be assured, we are still here for you, if need us, in an emergency.
“As the Major Trauma Centre and Specialist centre for the South West, at Derriford Hospital, we receive some of the most acutely unwell patients by air and road ambulance. We are running at extremely high levels of occupancy and like a number of other hospitals across the country, we are seeing huge rises in demands for our services at the moment.
“Attendances in our Emergency Department are high; there are ongoing challenges in discharging patients who are well enough to leave hospital, and we are seeing an increase in staff sickness - all of which leads to longer waits than we would like for patients to be seen and admitted.
“We are here to help in an emergency, but we would ask people to consider all options when accessing urgent care, such as accessing NHS111 as a first point of call. We encourage the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and have a flu jab if eligible.
“Please head to the ‘Stay Well’ section of our website for more information: https://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/stay-well
“Massive thanks to our staff for their continued commitment to working for our patients to provide the best possible care in tough circumstances. Everyone is doing their best and this is appreciated.”
The NHS website states reasons for visiting A&E, stating: “An A&E department (also known as emergency department or casualty) deals with genuine life-threatening emergencies, such as:
-loss of consciousness
-a sudden confused state
-fits that are not stopping
-severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
-severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
-severe burns or scalds
-major trauma such as a road traffic collision
-feelings of self-harm or suicide
“Less severe injuries can be treated in urgent treatment centres (walk-in centres or minor injury units).”
If you're not sure what to do:
-NHS 111 can help if you need urgent medical help or you're not sure what to do.
-They will ask questions about your symptoms so you get the help you need.
-If you need to go to A&E, NHS 111 will book an arrival time. This might mean you spend less time in A&E. -This also helps with social distancing.
-You can get help from NHS 111 online or call 111. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
-Get help from NHS 111 online
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* The information contained on this page is correct to the best of our knowledge, if you notice anything that you know to be incorrect or misleading, please contact us.