Hospital suffers worst weekend ever

HUGE pressures in Accident and Emergency at Ipswich Hospital have seen bosses today apologising to patients after what was described as their "most difficult time ever.

HUGE pressures in Accident and Emergency at Ipswich Hospital have seen bosses today apologising to patients after what was described as their "most difficult time ever."

Twice between Friday afternoon and Sunday the accident and emergency department could only take emergency ambulance cases, known as 'blue light only' because of the sheer numbers descending on the Heath Road site.

And today could be just as busy if not busier as Monday always sees an influx of patients.

More staff had to be called in during the weekend so as many beds could be safely used as possible.

The news came as it was revealed that the East Anglian Ambulance Trust has introduced inflatable tents as contingency measures against having to wait a long time at busy hospitals in the region trying to get patients admitted.

Today, Trust spokesman Matthew Ware said that the turn around times had been slightly longer at the weekend but did not cause serious problems.

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And despite the massive numbers, hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said that their doors were never closed and that they would never turn people away.

But she admitted that this was the worst time that the hospital has ever had to face.

She said: "We are sorry to people who were disrupted.

"It was our most difficult time ever but we have never turned anyone away and never will.

"For specific time periods there were moments of acute pressure.

"We are under general pressure at the moment and have had that since July."

Being on blue light only admissions means that GP's in the community were asked not to send patients in at certain times if they were not major emergencies and could be treated in the community.

However Ms Rowsell said that if patients did turn up of their own accord they were all treated but told they may have to face a wait.

Despite the pressures she said that it was believed staff managed to treat people or find them a bed within the target four hours.

She said: "We did see everyone who wanted to be treated.

"We explained to everyone what was happening as best we could and that they might have to wait longer than usual."

Ms Rowsell said that the situation was down to the fact that the hospital is struggling for beds and not to understaffing and an investigation is now being launched to see why figures are continuing to rise.

For the hospital to operate safely a certain amount of staff have to be on duty per the number of beds in use.

Ms Rowsell said: "Because it was half term we had a number of staff on pre-arranged holidays but that was nothing to do with it.

"We had the staff we needed to run the hospital and we put extra beds safely on wards."

Since July numbers attending A+E have been creeping up and up.

In some cases ambulances have been left waiting at the door for a free space to admit their patients.

There has been a 15 per cent rise in the number of emergency admissions at the region's hospitals in the past year, which is what prompted the ambulance trust to introduce the inflatable tents.

If the situation ever became so dire that there was no room for a patient at the hospital a tent could be inflated to house the patient until a bed came available.