NHS winter pressures: Bosses at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital say it is already stretched as numbers of frail and elderly admissions rise

The Lister Hospital says it is facing a tough January

The Lister Hospital says it is facing a tough January - Credit: Archant

Bosses at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital have warned it is once again becoming overloaded as the pressures of festive excesses combine with elderly patients who have become frail and sick over the Christmas period.

East and North Herts NHS Trust which runs the hospital says it is currently ‘very busy’ and people going to A&E with minor conditions will be facing a long wait.

A Trust spokesman said: “Over the last few days, attendances at the Lister’s A&E have risen as would be expected. What is different, however, is the number of very sick, frail elderly patients, often arriving by ambulance, who have needed to be admitted. This has meant that the Lister has been very busy over the last few days, resulting in those attending A&E with less serious illnesses and injuries - especially more minor conditions - waiting longer to be seen and treated as our staff prioritise those with life-threatening problems.”

The Trust is putting in contingency measures in place to try to avoid a repeat of last year when the A&E department had to be temporarily closed in January for minor trauma and illness cases as the hospital was swamped.

Measures being put in place include working with partners including GPs, community services, ambulance trusts and Herts County Council to reduce the numbers of preventable emergency attendances and admissions, and to ensure patients who can be moved on from the hospital to the next stage of their care are moved as quickly as possible.

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The hospital says it reduced bed occupancy rates to the 85 per cent standard required by NHS Improvement before the Christmas break started and is working to increase the number of inpatient beds and has created additional beds already at the Lister, with contingencies in place to open further beds in the New Year as needed.

A trust spokesman said: “In terms of recent activity, the Trust is ahead of the A&E waiting time performance improvement trajectory set by NHS Improvement. That performance sees it sit within the top third of NHS trusts across the country at the moment. That said, however, more needs to be done if the Trust is to cope with the busiest time of the year for NHS hospitals.”

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The hospital is also appealing to would be patients to help reduce demand on its services by following the correct procedures.

A Trust spokesman said: “There are lots of tips on how to stay well on the NHS Choices website, including over the festive season. Where someone has a need for urgent medical help, there are two numbers to remember - 999 for true life-threatening emergencies and 111 for everything else. “If it’s not a life-threatening emergency, therefore, the NHS is asking to always call NHS111 first.

“The team at the Hertfordshire service can then direct people to the right place to go - which in many cases will not be A&E.

“Those who do not follow this advice and simply arrive at the Lister emergency department with a relatively minor illness or condition could face a lengthy wait to be seen - so best call NHS111 first!”

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