The largest NHS hospitals in Croydon and Sutton have this week had to resort to providing medical care for adults on children’s wards, amid the gathering crisis in England’s healthcare system.
The Epsom and St Helier Trust, which manages the St Helier Hospital in Sutton, is cited in a report in today’s Guardian newspaper which states that more than 20 hospitals in England have declared a “black alert” after becoming so overcrowded that they could no longer guarantee patient safety and provide their full range of services.
And at Croydon’s Mayday Hospital, adult patients are being treated in a children’s ward as a way of keeping up with the growing patient demand amid reduced resources.
The hospital – known by some as Croydon University Hospital – has said the “temporary” switch has allowed it to have access to 12 extra beds on the ward.
“Like all hospitals, we are currently extremely busy. We have opened extra surgical beds on one of our children’s wards to care for our younger patients,” a spokesman told the Croydon Guardian.
“This has allowed us to temporarily switch what would routinely be used a children’s surgical ward to treat only adult patients before and after their operations.”
According to the report in the national Guardian newspaper, guidance which NHS England issued last October told hospitals to declare what is called a black alert when they have become “unable to deliver comprehensive care [and] there is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised”.
The Guardian has discovered “at least 23 hospital trusts declaring they cannot cope since Monday”. Among the steps taken by the over-stretched, under-resourced hospitals have been the cancellation of cancer operations, treating adults in children’s wards and closing a birthing centre to help cope with a sudden influx of patients who need to be admitted for treatment.
Hospitals are expected to come under even greater strain of additional patient demand over the next few days, with the arrival of snow, ice and cold wintry weather.
It will be a significant challenge for the hospital management. Yesterday, Caroline Landon, the chief operating officer at the Epsom and St Helier Trust, told the Guardian: “For a short period last week we used our paediatric day case units to care for adult patients who urgently needed a hospital bed. We also used our adult day case unit and medical infusion suite for the same purpose.”
The Guardian’s report comes a day after the Tory Prime Minister, Theresa Maybe, described the international charity the Red Cross as “irresponsible” for revealing that it had been called to intervene in some over-stretched NHS hospitals to assist with what it calls “a humanitarian crisis”.
The Tories continue to maintain that they are providing more funding for the NHS. Yet the Guardian reports that the Royal Surrey in Guildford, used by many of the constituents of health secretary Jeremy Hunt, is among those hospitals on black alert for lack of resources.
So while the Prime Minister was trying to belittle and diminish the Red Cross and health professionals by claiming that it is “not unusual” for there to be pressures on the NHS in the winter, while highlighting that her Government had provided £10billion extra funding for the health service, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England was telling the Commons Public Accounts Committee that that money was less than the NHS has asked for.
“It does not help anybody to pretend there aren’t finance gaps,” Stevens told MPs, as he confirmed that after inflation, NHS spending per person in 2018-2019 would go down.
The NHS in Croydon generally is in the midst of another round of spending cuts, being forced by Hunt’s Department of Health to reduce its budgets by £45million over the next four years, with services including IVF treatment and the women’s mental health refuge at Foxley Lane being withdrawn.
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