Norfolk’s three acute hospitals remain on black alert today while East of England Ambulance Service Trust experiences “severe pressure”

Ambulances stacking up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which is on black

Ambulances stacking up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which is on black alert. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The intensifying pressures on Norfolk's emergency health services have been starkly underlined as it emerges all three of the county's hospitals are on black alert.

Escalation plans are in place across Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, James Paget University Hospital, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn while ambulance chiefs have asked managers to drop certain tasks to help front-line staff.

It comes as hospitals and ambulances are battling to hit crucial A&E waiting time and response time targets or face fines from commissioners.

Last week the EDP reported how bosses at the N&N were told they face up to £8m in fines if targets are not hit.

Hospital bosses have issued a joint statement this evening confirming all three hospitals are on black alert and experiencing high demand.

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Black alert is the highest level for pressure on services.

The chiefs said: 'We are working with East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to keep our patients safe.'

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But the ambulance service, which is failing to hit emergency response targets in rural parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, is under such 'severe pressure' that bosses have moved the trust to Level 4 of the Resourcing Escalatory Action Plan (REAP).

It means specific measures are triggered to help deal with the rising level of demand.

The EDP understands one such measure was 'cohorting' patients at Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn.

This means ambulances arriving at the hospital's A&E department off-load their patient to ambulance crews already queuing outside A&E, in order to get back on the road to respond to 999 calls.

Other measures include cancelling all 'non-essential meetings' and asking clinical and operational managers to 'support A&E operations'.

REAP Level 1 means the ambulance trust is operating a normal service, while Level 6 (the highest) means the trust faces a 'potential service failure'.

It is believed the trust has not been on REAP Level 4 since February.

Earlier this year Norfolk's commissioners, who are responsible for healthcare in the county, were given £4.8m to help combat the winter pressures.

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