Norfolk hospital at full capacity

Norfolk's flagship hospital last night reassured patients that it was open for emergency admissions and routine operations, despite reaching maximum capacity.

Norfolk's flagship hospital last night reassured patients that it was open for emergency admissions and routine operations, despite reaching maximum capacity.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital was yesterday placed on the highest state of alert following a large volume of admissions over the weekend.

Three other East of England hospitals, including the West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds were also classed as being on “black alert” following an unusually high number of patients being transferred to Accident and Emergency and Emergency Assessment Units.

Officials at the Norfolk and Norwich yesterday urged local GPs to look into alternative treatment plans for their patients and to avoid referrals as much as possible, whilst the hospital aimed to speed up discharge arrangements for those medically fit to leave in a bid to address the “critical” bed capacity issue.

However, the hospital confirmed that scheduled operations would continue as usual and there were currently no plans to turn away emergency admissions to the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn, which are at amber and green alert levels respectively.

Hospitals at Hinchingbrooke, Cambridgeshire, and Peterborough were also placed on black alert, whilst Ipswich and Addenbrooke's, in Cambridge, were on red alert - the second highest pressure score.

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Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach said it had been an “extremely busy” weekend for emergency admissions and equally busy yesterday with GP referrals, which had no link to bonfire night celebrations or any winter bugs.

“We are full. There is no more room in the inn, so we make sure that we can discharge as many patients as we can and free up beds for emergencies. If GPs can manage their patients without admitting to hospital, that would be much appreciated.

“There is no rhyme or reason to it. It was just a high volume of medical illnesses and surgery cases over the weekend and today (Monday),” he said.

Mr Stronach added that it was “not particularly unusual” for the flagship hospital to be on black alert and had been in the same situation 27 times last year.

Hospitals can be placed on black alert for a variety of reasons such as a rapid rise in emergency admissions, severe lack of beds, low staff numbers, or system failure and can be resolved in the most extreme cases by stopping new admissions, routine operations and transferring new patients elsewhere.

Jonathan Cook, director of corporate services for Norfolk Primary Care Trust, said: “We are confident that we have robust procedures in place to ensure that we deal with these emergency admission problems appropriately and assist the Norfolk and Norwich by avoiding non-urgent GP referrals. We continue to work with our colleagues at the hospital and will monitor the situation extremely closely.”

A spokeswoman from the West Suffolk Hospital added: “We are on black alert because of an unusual high volume of A&E admissions, but these things happen and we are coping with it.”

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