Hospital bosses declare critical internal incident as ambulances diverted to Bristol Royal Infirmary

Medics imploring residents to use NHS 111 if they can

Ambulances were turned away from Weston General Hospital over three days this week after bosses declared a critical internal incident.

The number of patients at the town’s emergency department (ED) exceeded capacity from Sunday to Tuesday night (August 7-9) and meant University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Trust (UHBW) ordered a “divert” to other A&Es, a standard practice but used as a last resort.

It was revealed at a meeting of the trust board, where members also heard that 6,100 patients – over a third – at UHBW’s four EDs in June waited more than four hours to be admitted or discharged, while 576 had to wait on a trolley for at least 12 hours, although this was a slight improvement.

The national expected standard is 95 per cent of A&E patients to be dealt with within four hours and zero 12-hour trolley waits.

Managers are now imploring residents to use NHS 111 instead if they need urgent medical help but their condition is not life-threatening.

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Chief operating officer Dr Mark Smith told the meeting at Bristol City Hall on Tuesday, August 9: “Weston began a divert on Sunday.

“That divert is now in day three where we’ve not been able to restart ambulance conveying back to Weston for North Somerset patients.

“That is putting enormous pressure on the BRI in terms of ambulance queues and pressure.

“We did have to declare yesterday a critical internal incident to try to manage the situation which was persisting this morning with 25 people still in the ED, which is unusual after several days of diverting.”

The trust later said the divert ended on Tuesday night but its hospitals remain extremely busy as of Friday, August 12.

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New chief executive Eugine Yafele told the board that the traditional summer lull in patients had not materialised and there was high demand on services.

He said UHBW was not far from getting back to the point from before the pandemic where no one was waiting longer than two years for routine surgery and other treatment.

Mr Yafele said there were still more than 100 patients who no longer needed to be in the trust’s hospitals but could not leave because ongoing care was not yet in place, a group informally called bed-blockers and officially labelled “no criteria to reside”.

“On the emergency care pathway, we still are under pressure across the children’s hospital and indeed the BRI and Weston General,” he said.

“It is evident that our organisation is under considerable pressure to respond to the demand for care and to recover services.”

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Asked to comment further about the critical internal incident, Dr Smith said after the meeting: “Patient safety is our priority.

“Like many hospitals across the country we are under sustained pressure in our emergency departments and we would like to apologise to any of our patients who have experienced a longer wait.

“We always aim to see and treat patients as quickly as possible, and all patients arriving at our emergency departments are triaged and assessed with the most clinically urgent being prioritised.”

A trust spokesperson said: “We would urge people to contact NHS 111 first if you need medical help urgently but it’s not a life-threatening emergency – rather than going straight to A&E.

“NHS 111 will help you right away and direct you to the best service for your needs.

“And if needed, a healthcare professional will call you for a telephone consultation.

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NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day online here: https://111.nhs.uk/ And on the NHS App via this link: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-app/