Prime Minister Theresa May has said the Government is ‘aware of issues’ facing the pressure-stricken Royal Cornwall Hospital.
The Treliske hospital was placed on OPEL Four, previously called ‘black alert’, on Monday amid reports of patients being treated in corridors and ambulances queueing up to admit people. On Tuesday a ‘major incident’ was declared.
Some routine outpatient appointments had been cancelled this week and hospital chiefs were asking the public to choose alternative services if possible.
During Prime Minister’s Questions today Cornish MP Sarah Newton called on Mrs May to do everything she can to enable health ministers to support leaders in the Duchy in resolving the situation as quickly as possible.
Responding, Mrs May said the Government was aware of the issues at the hospital and that the Health Secretary recognises its importance and would meet Cornish MPs later.
Ms Newton and West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas met Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier and were due to meet for further talks this evening.
Yesterday the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust issued the following statement: “As a result of extreme pressure on all health and care services, members of the public are asked to avoid coming to the main Emergency Department in Truro and are urged to choose alternative services wherever possible.
“Emergency teams are working hard at the Royal Cornwall Hospital to keep patients safe and to make sure patients’ treatment gets underway while they are waiting to be admitted to wards.”
Emergency Department Consultant Dr Andy Virr said: “We are seeing year on year growth in demand for health and care services, reflecting an ageing population with increasingly complex needs. Despite our best plans, at times of peaks in demand, we can struggle to cope so leaders have come together to agree ways to step up our response.”
Cornwall Council was taking urgent steps to make sure that people who were currently in hospital but no longer need medical care were able to be safely discharged.
Cornwall Council portfolio holder for Adults Rob Rotchell said: “Many patients are elderly and require support after discharge and we ask that relatives support us and their loved ones by helping patients that are medically well to leave hospital; to return to their own home.”
The statement continued: “We are asking the public for their help by choosing alternative services wherever possible. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day. NHS 111 is aware of the current pressures in Cornwall and is able to provide advice on treatment options and direct you to appropriate local services.
“Some routine outpatient appointments have been cancelled this afternoon (Tuesday). Affected patients are being contacted personally, so there is no need to call the hospital. Urgent cancer clinics, paediatrics and renal dialysis are not affected. Any appointments that are postponed will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
“We apologise for any inconvenience while we concentrate on caring for the high number of emergency patients needing admission.”
West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas tweeted last night: “Reasonable access to urgent care services is something every UK citizen should enjoy and, here in Cornwall, we are already severely challenged due to our unique geography.
I am asking the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, to meet with myself and RCHT to identify how best to avoid any repeat of this.”
What is OPEL Four?
OPEL Four is the highest Operational Pressures Escalation Level alert and was previously known as ‘black alert’.
OPEL Four is declared in the following circumstances, according to NHS England: “Pressure in the local health and social care system continues to escalate leaving organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care. There is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised. Decisive action must be taken by the local A&E Delivery Board to recover capacity and ensure patient safety. All available local escalation actions taken, external extensive support and intervention required. Regional teams in NHS E and NHS I will be aware of rising system pressure, providing additional support as deemed appropriate and agreed locally, and will be actively involved in conversations with the system. Where multiple systems in different parts of the country are declaring OPEL Four for sustained periods of time and there is an impact across local and regional boundaries, national action may be considered.”