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A&E crisis spreads across Sussex
Accident and emergency units across Sussex are struggling to cope with demand for beds, a hospital boss has warned.
Steve Holmberg, medical director of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, has told The Argus ambulances are queuing outside A&E departments across the county.
His comments came as the trust, which runs Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath, entered its 17th consecutive day of crisis.
On February 20, it declared a “major incident” after it became overrun with patients.
That was downgraded to the second highest level of “purple alert” on February 22.
It has remained at this level ever since, with hospital bosses saying that there is no end in sight.
Mr Holmberg said pressure on the hospital had been mounting since the Royal Sussex became a major trauma centre last April, treating the most complex cases from across the South East.
He added other hospitals in Sussex were due to take pressure off Brighton following this change, but this had not happened.
He said: “It’s not just Brighton that has ambulances outside its A&E.
“It’s affecting our other hospitals as well – it’s very hard for them to prioritise a patient in a distant hospital over the ambulance in their forecourt.”
He added: “We are receiving higher complexity patients from hospitals around Sussex that we didn’t have before which is putting further stress on the system.
“The bed plan we put out to recognise these further challenges said there would be 15% fewer medical emergencies coming into the hospital from the community.
“Unfortunately that hasn’t proved possible.”
Steady increase in pressure
Mr Holmberg said a steady increase in pressure on the hospital started last summer but denied becoming a trauma centre was a responsibility too far.
Patients have been waiting for up to 20 hours in accident and emergency and some operations have been cancelled during the current crisis.
Mr Holmberg admitted the quality of some patient care had “fallen below what we would like to see”.
He added the hospital was also struggling because of unnecessary visits to A&E – including people with constipation and flu – and a lack of 24 hour community care.
Mr Holmberg said: “The A&E depart- ment is excellent and the issues relate to the whole wider health economy.”
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust Medical Director Dr Phillip Barnes said: “Worthing and St Richard’s Hospitals, like all parts of the NHS, have been very busy in recent months but have continued to provide the normal range of services.
“We work extremely closely with colleagues at Brighton, as well as in other partner organisations, to make sure all our patients receive the right care in the right place.”
East Sussex Health Care NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in the east of the county, was unavailable for comment.
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