Cancelled operations at Royal Derby Hospital as the pressures of winter bite
ROYAL Derby Hospital has had to cancel operations and open extra rooms to cope with a huge increase in patients.
Hospital bosses are now appealing for people to only go to its casualty department if they have a genuine medical emergency – but say they never turn sick people away.
Staff have been working overtime and extra beds drafted in to due to an "influx" of people after Christmas and a rise in the number of patients aged over 90.
For the first time since the hospital opened three years ago, staff have put patients' beds in rooms normally used for clinics and procedures – in a bid to find extra space.
Chief operating officer, Helen Scott-South, said that despite the pressure the hospital was "coping well" thanks to staff who have gone "above and beyond" by working extra hours voluntarily.
Ms Scott-South said: "It's important people bear with us at times like this.
"They should also be aware of other health services in the city which may provide more appropriate care for them – such as their GP or the walk-in centre.
"We are asking people not to use Accident and Emergency unless they need to."
Dozens of non-urgent operations have been cancelled and about 90 extra beds – not needed in the summer months – have been freed up for sicker patients.
It comes after the hospital saw an "influx" of patients with complex illness after Christmas – and following a 21% rise in the number of patients over the age of 90 last year.
Breathing difficulties, heart problems and strokes are among the most common cases being seen.
And the demand has been so great, the hospital has been on its highest alert possible – called level black – more than once since the festive period.
The hospital reports the amount of pressure it is facing to staff on a scale of green, amber, red and black.
In the fortnight since Christmas the hospital has cancelled 59 routine operations, such as hip replacements.
But 293 patients have been admitted to the Royal Derby Hospital to have their elective surgery.
The 90 additional beds for patients have been found by "by re-designating" some of the roles of the wards, including opening up 28 beds at London Road Community Hospital for less seriously-ill patients.
At one stage, nine clinical rooms – normally used for routine clinics, consultations or examinations – were converted into single rooms for patients to stay in overnight.
Ms Scott-South said: "One other thing we're trying to get a handle on at the moment is the amount of patients we're seeing in the evenings. If people feel unwell and need to see their GP, it will help them to do it earlier in the day so they are referred to the right service as soon as possible."
Between April and November last year, there were 2,000 people over the age of 90 who attended the hospital, compared to 1,651 over the same period the previous year.
There were also 5,875 patients over the age of 80 during that period in 2012, compared to 5,278 in 2011.
Ms Scott-South said: "When we get older and live longer, the coughs and colds we pick up can develop into more problematic pneumonia or respiratory illnesses.
"It can take a bit more time to recover from these illnesses. At the moment, we have about 70 patients who have actually overcome their initial complaint but are still not fit to go home yet."