Ambulance services and hospitals in Suffolk and Essex are facing ‘extreme pressures’

Colchester General Hospital's Emergency Department. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR/ARCHANT LIBRARY

Colchester General Hospital's Emergency Department. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR/ARCHANT LIBRARY

Ambulance staff in Suffolk and Essex have been barred from booking leave and advised to call taxis for patients due to “extreme pressures” facing health services.

The Garrett Anderson Centre, the emergency department at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ALEX FAIRFULL

The Garrett Anderson Centre, the emergency department at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: ALEX FAIRFULL

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) has raised its operational status to the highest level in response to the pressures, which are expected to continue through this week.

Ipswich, Colchester, West Suffolk and James Paget hospitals have reported significant pressures over recent days.

EEAST’s director of service delivery Kevin Brown wrote to ambulance staff on Sunday to highlight “exceptionally high demand” within the 999 system and “very significant” handover delays at hospitals. In four days, nearly 500 hospital handovers in the region exceeded an hour, losing 50 ambulance shifts a day.

Ambulance staff have been banned from making new requests for leave this week and advised to book taxis to take patients to hospital rather than wait for back up in less serious cases.

One EEAST worker, who asked not to be named, said many staff had to work beyond their shifted hours and morale was “very low”.

Mr Brown said: “We recognise the immense pressures on our staff at this time and have escalated our concerns to the highest level with our regulators. We have responded safely and provided excellent care to thousands of patients.”

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Ipswich and Colchester hospitals spokesman Jan Ingle said: “We are extremely busy at both hospitals because there is a great demand for healthcare at the moment, We are seeing a lot of very unwell people in need of urgent care, many of whom are frail and older people.”

Although there have been criticisms over inappropriate use of emergency services in the past, Mrs Ingle said patients visiting the hospitals in recent days had been right to do so and thanked the community for its support. “There’s extreme pressures on the hospitals but we are managing to cope,” she added.

West Suffolk Hospital said the problems affected the entire NHS.

“We are working to full capacity and doing everything we can to see patients,” a spokesman added.

James Paget Hospital’s medical director Nick Oligbo said: “We are very busy with our whole team pulling together and working very hard to provide care for patients.”

People are advised to use GPs, pharmacies and NHS 111 services where appropriate.

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