A HOSPITAL has been placed on the highest level of alert as it battles to control demand from patients and a shortage of beds.
One patient at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton was reported to have waited for more than 20 hours in the accident and emergency department before they could be moved on to a ward.
Another patient reportedly waited more than 12 hours to be formally handed over to hospital staff by the ambulance service because the department was too busy to take them when they were brought in.
At one stage up to 23 patients were waiting to be handed over by ambulance crews.
The situation was described by one hospital doctor as “unsustainable and grossly unsafe” and they had “serious concerns” about the care being provided.
Those patients needing treatment for minor health problems also found themselves in A&E for more than six hours.
The hospital has been on black alert, the highest level possible, since the weekend, with frontline doctors and nurses and managerial staff working to get the hospital working more smoothly.
No operations or appointments have had to be cancelled so far but this could be a possibility if the situation does not improve.
The Royal Sussex A&E was on divert between 11pm on Tuesday and 4am yesterday, with some patients being sent to Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
However the critically ill and seriously injured were still admitted to the department.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said both its A&E departments in Brighton and Haywards Heath were exceptionally busy with some very sick patients.
It said all patients who have to wait in A&E are seen by a clinician within 20 minutes of arriving in the department, are made as comfortable as possible and are regularly monitored in a safe environment.
Chief nurse Sherree Fagge, said: “The staff response has been superb, including staff from other areas of the hospital who have come to join the emergency department teams.
“We are confident we are keeping patients safe but it is a very tough environment for staff to work in at the moment.”
Gary Palmer from the GMB union said the current crisis was a symptom of years of Government underfunding and a lack of resources for the NHS.
He said: “We are constantly getting notified by staff, particularly the nurses, who are constantly fearful of the pressures.
“They are trying their best to protect the patients and the service and the hospital as well and they are bearing the brunt of it.
“This used to be a seasonal thing but now this high level of capacity is happening all year round.
“The whole system is at breaking point.”
Also see: The Argus comment - A&Es under strain
PATIENT WAITED MORE THAN FOUR HOURS FOR A BED
THE Argus exclusively revealed last week how nearly 6,000 patients brought in by ambulance to hospitals across Sussex were waiting longer than they should to be formally handed over to hospital staff.
Paramedics are supposed to drop patients off and be back on the road within 15 minutes of arrival at a hospital.
Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showed one in seven crews were delayed by more than 30 minutes over a four month period.
Out of 38,355 recorded handovers at A&E, crews waited 30 minutes or more on 5,493 occasions between the beginning of November and the end January.
The longest wait was at Conquest Hospital in St Leonards, where one crew waited for four hours and 12 minutes.
Other crews at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath and St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester waited more than three hours.
Part of the problem for hospitals is the number of bed blocking patients who are ready to be discharged but are delayed because no care or nursing home place is available.
The lack of available beds leads to longer waits in other parts of the hospital.