The Horton General Hospital’s A&E was overwhelmed with casualties in the week covering New Year it has been claimed
Sources say ambulances have had to queue ‘on hold’ in the car park with staff unable to book in patients to save the unit breaking the four-hour target time.
Campaigners say the net loss of 18 medical beds and ten trauma beds at the Horton in October, without obligatory public consultation or extra accommodation in Oxford, is causing unacceptable mayhem.
Oxford University Hospitals Trust said A&E was busier than usual due to the time of year but that the situation was ‘not unmanageable’.
Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General, said: “The plan for the Horton’s future – the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) – calls for the downgrade of the entire Horton – not only our maternity but medicine, trauma, paediatrics and A&E.
“Winter pressures - falls, snow and ice, accidents, pneumonia and more - have hardly begun and already the Horton’s A&E is jam-packed. The JR cannot cope as they are overwhelmed, as is the ambulance service. There is no greater evidence that the Horton cannot be downgraded.”
An individual who visited A&E over New Year’s night, Sunday/Monday, said the department was in chaos.
“The ambulances were stacked in the car park and they were not allowed to offload the patients.
“They had to stay with them until a trolley in a cubicle, the waiting room or a corridor, was free,” he said.
“I was told the four-hour target clock to be seen by a doctor doesn’t start ticking until the patient leaves the ambulance crew’s care so they weren’t allowed in.
“Apparently the last week or two have been utterly dreadful.
“They were holding ambulances for most of the next day, Tuesday, too. The situation was no better. There were no beds for patients to be admitted to.”
Mr Strangood said the trust should reinstate the closed beds immediately.
“Paul Brennan (trust clinical director) said at a recent meeting the beds could be reopened if their plan did not work and it is clearly not working.
“This is our worst fear that their plans to send everyone home to be treated are not workable but that they don’t have a Plan B.
“It would be alright to trial new methods of care if you did it alongside the safe hospital practice. Doing it this way, by just closing beds, is risking people’s lives. We have lost over 100 beds in the last year - that is 100 people who will suffer.”
Mr Strangwood said the trust was ‘causing its own problems’ trying to save money on beds and staffing to put into ‘care at home’ schemes that were not proven or practicable.
Paul Brennan, OUH Director of Clinical Services, said: “Indications are that attendance at the emergency departments at the John Radcliffe and Horton General Hospitals during the post-Christmas and New Year period increased slightly on the figures for the same period last year, though the situation we were faced with was not unmanageable.
“We always expect the post-Christmas and New Year to be a busy time in A&E, due to reduced accessibility to community services during this period. We are working closely with other health care providers across Oxfordshire, including South-Central Ambulance Service, to manage the flow of patients and ensure resources are used as effectively as possible.”
Cllr Mark Cherry said: ”My brother’s mother-in-law was taken to A&E seriously ill. Her blood pressure was sky high and she was delirious because of an infection. A&E was nearly overwhelmed with the staff doing their best but with ambulances stacking up outside.
“I have even heard that the department has had to shut to patients in the past two weeks because of pressures. How anyone could consider Banbury managing with its A&E being downgraded is beyond me. The unit is over -stretched through the winter as it is,” he said.