Seriously-ill patients had to wait for hours on trolley beds in a Sheffield hospital corridor as over-stretched casualty staff struggled to find space to treat them.
A lack of bed space at the Northern General Hospital in Fir Vale saw about eight patients – including several who were described as ‘old and frail’ – forced to wait with paramedics on ambulance trolley-beds.
The situation prompted Sir Andrew Cash, hospital trust chief executive, to visit the accident and emergency department to apologise personally to each affected patient and their family.
One witness said he told those waiting the situation had been occurring ‘for a number of days’.
The person said: “The staff were amazing – under great pressure obviously - but there was just no room at the inn. It was distressing and a very long night.”
One woman, who had been admitted with suspected pneumonia, had to wait almost five hours to be found a bed after being admitted to hospital at about 9pm.
Officials from the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said staff have been ‘working tirelessly’ to secure enough bed space to satisfy demand, but the ‘sheer volume of patients’ coming through the doors meant some patients are facing long waits.
Dr David Throssell, trust medical director, said: “We have opened additional beds, brought in more staff and our teams across all the hospitals and in the community are working tirelessly to ensure beds are available.
“However, given the sheer volume of patients, this takes time and so some patients are waiting longer than we would normally expect to be transferred to a ward from A&E at peak times of demand.
“Our managers, including the chief executive and other directors, are offering support to front-line teams in any way possible, which includes apologising and explaining to patients about the situation and why they are waiting.
“We will, of course, continue to do our best to achieve the national standards, even in these exceptional circumstances, but our priority has to be those patients most in need of urgent care.”
Jackie Cole, Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s South Yorkshire locality director of emergency operations, said: “During times of high demand, which is the case currently, hospitals may experience busy periods which, understandably, can result in delays.
“The service continues to work in partnership with hospitals across South Yorkshire to minimise any impact on patients.”