The chief executive of a small acute trust has described the “terrifying situation” faced by ambulance crews and hospital staff in trying to provide adequate emergency care as coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the local NHS services.
Susan Gilby, of Countess of Chester Hospital Foundation Trust, told HSJ staff are seeing “tragic and potentially avoidable” instances where patients with COVID-19 have reached the emergency department too late.
She suggested this is due to a combination of patients waiting too long to call 999, and then having to wait long periods for an ambulance to arrive.
Cheshire has been among the hardest hit areas in England during this third wave of coronavirus, with all four of its acute hospitals having very high covid occupancy rates.
Dr Gilby, a former critical care consultant, said her trust has been at around 60 per cent covid occupancy for the last fortnight, which has made her increasingly fearful of the difficulties in admitting patients through the emergency department due to a lack of beds. This can then cause knock-on delays for patients arriving in ambulances, and ties those ambulance crews up for long periods, preventing them from responding to further 999 calls.
She said ambulance turnaround times had been relatively good at the Countess of Chester, but she had spoken to paramedics handing over patients who were “really struggling” to get to people quickly enough.
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Source: HSJ, 22 January 2021