‘Manic Monday’ was busiest day ever for two Suffolk hospitals with soaring patient numbers this week

Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital

Suffolk health chiefs have been left baffled after emergency departments at two major hospitals experienced their busiest day ever on Monday.

Both West Suffolk and Ipswich hospitals saw patient numbers surge by as much as 25% during “manic Monday”, while a doctor’s surgery in Stowmarket received 676 calls for assistance in less than 12 hours.

But health bosses have been left bewildered by the sudden spike in demand and have no idea why so many people visited on that day.

The Bury St Edmunds hospital’s emergency department experienced a huge rise.

“We saw 233 patients attend compared with an average of 176”, said Helen Beck, deputy chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

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“Although it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for this, the general trend year on year is that we are continuing to see more and more patients, many of whom are very unwell and need high levels of care. Our staff worked hard to manage this peak in demand and make sure everyone received the care they needed.”

Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department was so busy that chief executive Nick Hulme, along with his deputy, ended up pushing trolleys to help staff deal with the increase.

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“It was very unusual, and manic, but we handled things very well. I am very proud of how we dealt with things and it shows our plan works. We now track patient numbers and ambulances every hour”, said Mr Hulme.

But he admitted he has “no idea” why Monday saw so many patients arrive at A&E, causing both hospitals to experience record visitors.

“We can’t see why right now – the weather was relatively warm this weekend and we’ve seen the worst of winter. There appears to be no rhyme or reason why there were so many patients requiring emergency attention”, Mr Hulme added.

Nearly 300 patients visited Ipswich Hospital’s A&E department on Monday – they typically deal with up to 230 per day. More than 100 ambulances arrived there in less than 24 hours.

Demand for appointments at Stowhealth also smashed records on Monday. More than 670 calls for assistance were logged by the surgery in less than 12 hours – compared with a usual 580.

“We’re not quite sure why so many people called in. Mondays are busy, after the weekend, but rarely this busy”, said Dr Mark Shenton, a clinician at Stowhealth and chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG.

“There is a nasty virus going around, which affects patients’ windpipes and voice boxes, they have a nasty cough and the symptoms don’t disappear for two or three weeks.

“Apart from that I can’t see a clear reason for the increase. We worked very hard, but experienced sustained activity until well after 4pm, which is unusual.”

Levels of activity for the region’s ambulance service have also soared in recent weeks, and this week has been 10% busier than the same week in 2015.

Rob Ashford, acting director of service delivery for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “We have experienced an unprecedented increase in demand in the last few weeks, which has placed huge pressure on all of our patient facing and support services staff and management teams.

“We are all working incredibly hard to meet demand and help patients as quickly as possible. However, we would urge people to think about the alternatives if their condition doesn’t actually need an emergency ambulance.”

Their comments come just weeks after the service took more 999 calls on March 6 than on New Year’s Eve and New Years’ Day, which are traditionally the busiest days of the year.

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