Hospitals braced for Arctic weather

By Rebecca SheppardHOSPITALS warned last night they were already under pressure and beds were in limited supply as the region braced itself for Arctic weather conditions.

By Rebecca Sheppard

HOSPITALS warned last night they were already under pressure and beds were in limited supply as the region braced itself for Arctic weather conditions.

Some of East Anglia's hospitals are already on alert and have been putting in place contingency plans to deal with the freezing temperatures.

East Anglian Daily Times's weatherman, Ken Blowers, said the worst weather would hit tomorrow with snow showers and chilling northerly winds rushing between 25mph and 30mph.

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He added temperatures during the day would be close to freezing and would fall to -4C (25F) at night.

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds said: “We are hourly reviewing the situation. The position at the hospital is currently tight and we are on a red state of alert.

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“We are working very closely with social care and primary care health care services to make sure we can safely discharge as many people as possible to have the beds available if needed. We are also asking people to only use the emergency services when they absolutely need to.

“In terms of being prepared in case the weather becomes worse, we are setting up a contingency where we can provide accommodation for staff so if they cannot get home, they will have somewhere to sleep.”

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital added: “We have been exceptionally busy for some weeks now. There have been a number of people very poorly with respiratory problems.

“We are not on a state of alert, but we are struggling to find beds. The outpatient clinics are also very busy, but we are coping extremely well. We are always prepared for whatever eventuality.”

A spokesman for Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust, which runs Colchester General Hospital, said: “We are busy as we would expect to be at this time of the year. There is some limited capacity in the system. It has been busy since the beginning of the year.”

He added trust had put contingency plans in place, including opening a new ward for 31 beds.

“We have identified colleagues that have four-wheel drive vehicles who, if it gets snowy, can do a round robin and pick staff up,” said the spokesman.

“We are also identifying staff who live close to the hospital who would be prepared to come in on short notice, even if they are not on duty that day.

“We already use the St John's Ambulance volunteers to discharge people and free beds quicker than normal.”

He added: “We have spoken to The Oaks, the private hospital in Colchester, so if needs be we can use some more of their beds.

“We have also been talking to Colchester Primary Care Trust and the voluntary sector, such as Age Concern, to do extra checks on vulnerable people at home and ensure they are warm and have food, which impacts on the hospital as they will not need to come in.”

David Hill, chief executive of James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, said: “The situation has been very busy for the last couple of weeks.

“There has been an increase in the number of emergency admissions and that has placed some pressure on our staff and our beds.

“We are not on alert at the moment and are managing to cope with our emergency admissions and the majority of elected admissions. There have been a few cases where surgery has had to be cancelled. We are monitoring the situation on a day-to-day basis.”


n People should make sure they have well-stocked medicine cabinets so they can treat minor ailments such as colds and ill stomachs.

n If people venture out they should layer their clothing to keep warm and wear sensible shoes with lots of grip. They should also wait a few hours before going outside so the ground has chance to thaw.

n People in rural communities living near to someone who is old, frail or not well should see if they need essentials from the shops.

n People should drive carefully and ensure they have warm clothes, boots, water and food in case they become stuck. They should check local weather forecasts and travel information and they should drive in a high gear, manoeuvre gently and leave plenty of space to stop.

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