Ambulances sent to Watford after Lister Hospital in Stevenage couldn’t cope with patient levels

Lister Hospital, Stevenage

Lister Hospital, Stevenage - Credit: Archant

An ambulance worker is questioning Lister Hospital’s ability to cope with growing patient numbers after it turned away emergency vehicles on Monday evening because of overcrowding.

The Stevenage hospital in Coreys Mill Lane was so overwhelmed by the number of patients that it was forced to divert emergency crews to other hospitals between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

The vehicles were mainly diverted to Watford General Hospital on the other side of the county, with ambulances carrying paediatric patients sent to The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

Speaking to the Comet anonymously the concerned worker said: “It was the longest divert I’ve ever known so it must have been overcrowded and down to a lack of beds in the hospital.”

The hospital is run by the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

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He blamed the backlog on the NHS trust’s decision to transfer all inpatient and emergency services to the Lister from the QEII in Welwyn Garden City in October last year.

This means that anyone needing anything but minor treatment will have to go to the Lister, where the NHS trust decided to centralise major services in 2008.

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He added: “There’s been a lot of high profile visitors at the hospital and the Tories have been claiming how wonderful it is but the question has to be asked whether it was right to close the accident and emergency department at the QEII.

“The biggest issue for all the ambulance staff is the fact it’s a huge distance to travel and it stops the crews getting to other jobs.”

A spokesman for the NHS trust confirmed that ambulances were diverted and said: “Over recent days the Lister has seen very high levels of attendances at its emergency department - including those brought in by emergency ambulance. This has led to longer waits than normally would be the case for those with more minor injuries and illnesses - for which we are sorry.

“For example, on Monday some 310 people attended the Lister (normally the average is around 270), of whom 84 were brought in by emergency ambulance. Of the latter, which includes the most seriously sick and injured people, some 77 had arrived at the department by 6.00pm. It was this concentration of a large number of emergency cases arriving in a relatively short space of time that put the department under considerable pressure.

“With the support of the ambulance service and local hospitals, further emergency cases were diverted for a two-hour period between 6.30 and 8.30pm to allow the team deal with those already in the Lister’s emergency department. This allowed the Lister to be able to take further emergency cases from 8.30pm onwards.

“We always advise patients to ring NHS111 befiore coming to A&E, unless it is an emergency when they should call 999. For non-emergencies, NHS 111 can direct people to the most appropriate service, which can include urgent care centres (such as the one at the QEII hospital, which is open 24/7) and GP out-of-hours services. Just heading straight for A&E is not always the right answer.”

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