Hospital cancels ops for a week

A HOSPITAL has been forced to postpone all non-urgent operations for the next week because of “unprecedented” levels of sick people being admitted.

Lizzie Parry

A HOSPITAL has been forced to postpone all non-urgent operations for the next week because of “unprecedented” levels of sick people being admitted.

Ipswich Hospital has also set up an emergency ward to cope with the huge increase of people suffering with breathing and respiratory problems.

Yesterday 13 operations had to be cancelled but no operations had been scheduled to take place today.

People expecting to have routine surgery up to Thursday, January 8 could face a wait for their operation to be rescheduled. Up to 13 operations are at risk of being cancelled each day.

Gwen Collins, director of nursing, said the decision to reschedule these non-urgent operations had not been taken lightly.

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“We are seeing very high numbers of people needing hospital care, coming into us every day,” she said. “People coming in to hospital are very poorly, many are suffering from respiratory and breathing problems.

“The decision to reschedule planned operations for the coming week was not taken lightly as we all appreciate the upset and inconvenience this will bring for patients.

“Faced with rising numbers of very sick people needing specialist care, we hope people will understand our decision and bear with us at this exceptionally busy time.”

Ipswich Hospital does not have any wards or beds closed due to the winter sickness virus, or any other infection at the moment.

One of the hospital's surgical wards - Martlesham Ward - is now being used as an emergency medical ward.

Mrs Collins added: “We have opened up additional beds throughout the hospital and set up this new emergency ward so that we can care for the influx of patients each day. Staff are being absolutely brilliant and we are managing very well.”

Hospital staff are contacting patients who have a planned operation in the next week to reschedule their appointment.

At Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust yesterday a spokesman said only a “handful” of operations had been postponed but he could not confirm the exact number.

“We are not saying the number because it is a daily situation which keeps changing but we do regret and apologise to patients and their families who are affected.”

He added: “It is busy at this time of year - busier than this time last year. It could be weather related, we don't know yet, but there have been more people admitted.”

He advised all cancelled operations would be rescheduled within the next 28 days.

Residents are advised to use the walk-in centre at Middleborough in the town for minor injuries and illnesses between 7am and 10pm or visit for health advice.

Meanwhile at the West Suffolk Hospital yesterday no scheduled surgery had been cancelled.

Gwen Nuttall, executive chief operating officer at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “For a variety of reasons, there is always a rise in the number of people coming to the hospital during the winter months, which inevitably brings with it extra pressure.

“We have extensive plans in place to cope with that increased demand, including reducing the number of non-urgent operations which we schedule over the Christmas and New Year period.”

NHS Suffolk has urged people to think twice before dialling 999 for emergencies. The primary care trust said unless your condition is serious, the first port of call should be NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

The helpline is open 24hours-a-day and is staffed by medical professionals who can advise on where to go for help. Pharmacies can also offer expert advice on common ailments and the use of medicines.

Tracy Dowling, director of strategic commissioning at NHS Suffolk, said: “This time of year is notoriously busy for our A&E departments and for the ambulance service.

“Unnecessary calls not only waste valuable time and resources, but they can also mean genuine life-threatening cases get delayed.”

Anyone who needs a doctor out-of-hours should telephone their surgery to be directed to the GP out-of-hours service. Emergency contraception-the morning after pill-is available from local pharmacies or GPs.

Minor injuries departments will also be open at Felixstowe and Ipswich Riverside Clinic between 7am and 10pm, to provide a fast alternative to A&E for a wide variety of problems.