Emergency health services across Greater Manchester have faced a ‘very pressured’ Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and are bracing themselves for ‘continued record levels of patients’. The resumption of the regular working week follows one hospital in the region warning people to stay away from its A&E department, amid a colossal volume of patients coming through the doors.
The Royal Bolton Hospital’s A&E was under severe pressure this weekend, despite having urged people to ‘think carefully’ days before the Bank Holiday break. Hospital spokesperson confirmed the site remained extremely busy over the weekend regardless of the pleas, and reiterated the pleas to avoid using the A&E unless absolutely necessary.
Today, April 19, other hospitals across Greater Manchester, and the North West Ambulance Service, have admitted staff spent yet another weekend under unprecedented pressure. The ever-growing numbers of patients comes as the NHS is in difficulty nationally as it deals with a huge backlog of operations delayed during the pandemic, skyrocketing Covid cases and the resulting hospitalisations, and patients whose medical conditions have grown worse in multiple lockdowns dissuading them from seeking treatment.
READMORE:Hospital bosses warn people to stay away from A&E after a busy Easter weekend
Many pharmacies and walk-in centers remained open across Greater Manchester over the weekend, and regional NHS chiefs stressed that GP appointments were made available for those who needed them. However, patients still took to A&E, putting increased pressure on services – the likes of which saw North West Ambulance Service so concerned that bosses put on an extra ’20 per cent’ of vehicles and staff just to cope with the anticipated demand.
Ged Blezard, Director of Operations for North West Ambulance Service, told the Manchester Evening News : “We’d anticipated a very pressured few days and had prepared by rostering on 20 per cent additional vehicles and control room staff. While we did see periods of high demand throughout the bank holiday weekend across our 999 and 111 services, we managed it well.”
If you’re a patient or NHS staff member and want to speak anonymously about your experience over the Bank Holiday, contact [email protected]
Among the hospitals the ambulance service visited this weekend, Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital was met ‘record levels of patients attending our emergency department. Hospital bosses say this high volume of people flooding through the doors stretched across the Bank Holiday, and will ‘continue’ going forward.
“Our A&E services have been extremely busy recently, with record levels of patients attending our emergency department,” said a Stockport NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson today. “This has continued over the bank holiday period, and continues to be the case.
“We are very grateful for the ongoing hard work of our staff during these challenging times, who are continuing to provide emergency care for those who need it. We would appeal to the public only to attend our A&E services in an emergency, and to remember the NHS 111 online service which can direct you to the right care you need.
“Covid-19 continues to add to our pressures too, so we also appeal to people to help reduce the spread; get vaccinated, wear face coverings in crowded areas and on our site, keep areas well ventilated, and stay at home if you are unwell.”
The hospitals reviewing their busy weekends come after the Royal Bolton Hospital, too, issued warnings in advance of the Bank Holiday. On Thursday (April 14) Damian Bates, a consultant in Bolton’s emergency department, told people that they could face long waits if they were not in an emergency.
Dr Bates said: “We will see people in the order they need to be seen. If you’re not an emergency, you will wait for several hours sometimes. So think carefully where you go for care or treatment.
“We’re really happy to see people when they’re unwell, that’s what we are here for. However, we get a lot of people coming to Royal Bolton Hospital because they don’t think they have a choice of going somewhere else. Ring 111 and get that advice about where you need to be.”
Despite this plea, the hospital remained under pressure over the weekend. A hospital spokesperson told the MEN on Monday: “Our A&E department continues to be busy and we would urge those with minor or non-urgent conditions to use NHS 111, by phone or online, refer to a GPs, pharmacies or Urgent Treatment Centres. If someone’s condition is life-threatening they should attend A&E where staff are ready to help.”
This coincided with a video message posted this morning from Nicola Henry, a health care assistant at the trust, saying: “Every single shift you think that it can’t get any busier but it just gets busier and busier. If they need to be in the A&E then they need to be here but they can try and go through different ways about it first to see if they really need to be in an accident and emergency.”
Symptoms for visiting the A&E might include severe chest pains, difficulty breathing, bleeding you can’t stop, possible broken bones, and more. Hospital bosses are keen to continue to ask for public understanding about finding the most appropriate heath service for different conditions, well beyond the most recent long weekend.
Laura Wells, Accident and Emergency Matron, said: “We understand it’s difficult for patients to know which service to pick. We would ask people to educate themselves around what can be dealt with at A&E and what can be treated at other local services. When we can see A&E isn’t the most appropriate option we try and explain that to patients to boost awareness and help them to feel more confident about making the right choice in the future.”
Health chiefs are sharing their gratitude to hardworking staff after yet another tough weekend for the NHS, as Greater Manchester’s GPs are also in the midst of an acutely challenging period, and see a difficult road ahead. One senior NHS leader said current pressures on the health service are a ‘serious worry’ as he called for ministers to act.
The operations director for NWAS added that ‘a big thanks has to go to all the staff who worked over the four days. It continues to be busy, and I hope most managed to get some degree of downtime with family or friends’.
Mary Fleming, the Deputy Chief Executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the A&E at Wigan Infirmary, said: “Our staff are working incredibly hard to provide care and treatment to patients as quickly as possible, particularly those with life -threatening conditions and I would like to thank them for their continued support.
“We would urge people across the Wigan Borough to continue to use our NHS services appropriately, contacting NHS 111 first to ensure you are directed to the most appropriate service for your needs and only coming to A&E with genuine emergencies.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the government “doesn’t seem keen to talk about Covid” – something which he says is “vital”. In a lengthy Twitter thread on Sunday, Mr Hopson outlined “four big inter-related challenges” facing the NHS – the ongoing impact of Covid, urgent and emergency care pressures, the backlogs and staff shortages.
This includes “much higher levels of covid prevalence than we were expecting” with at least 15,000 patients with covid in English hospital beds on 14 April, nearly double what it was six weeks earlier. He wrote: “We need right funding, right size of workforce, right support for social care, right level of NHS capacity to meet growing demand and a funded change programme. To make existing model work. Calls for new model & unwarranted criticism of NHS leaders/efficiency a distraction.”
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