West Suffolk Hospital brings in extra staff after ‘very busy’ Christmas is worsened by norovirus outbreak

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: PA

West Suffolk Hospital has brought in more staff and opened extra beds after a “very busy” Christmas period was worsened by a norovirus outbreak.

Jon Green, chief operating officer at the hospital, said the rate of admissions was higher than expected, with a peak of 193 people attending the emergency department on Saturday.

It follows reports that more than 3,000 operations were cancelled by the NHS in the first two weeks of this month due to increased demand in hospitals across the UK. Labour highlighted the figures as evidence of the severe stress and lack of beds facing A&E departments.

West Suffolk Hospital was also forced to close two wards because of a norovirus outbreak, which Mr Green said “added to the challenges” regarding patient flow.

Staff closed ward G4 on Christmas Day after seven patients started showing symptoms of the highly contagious diarrhoea and vomiting virus. Ward F3 was closed yesterday after a further five patients began showing symptoms.

People who have had diarrhoea or vomiting are urged to stay away from the hospital for at least 72 hours after they have recovered to avoid infecting someone who is already sick with the highly contagious illness.

And visitors to affected wards are reminded to clean their hands in the portable sinks on site using soap and water when they arrive and before they leave as the alcohol gel is not effective against the virus.

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Mr Green said the high admissions rate followed a growing trend, which has seen the number of patients rise by 5% year-on year.

“This trend has continued over the Christmas period and we are expecting similar figures into the new year,” he added.

“We have brought in additional staff and opened extra beds to help us manage the flow of patients through the hospital so that everyone can receive the care they need. We will continue to monitor our bed levels and attendances very closely and work with all other healthcare providers so that we can react to any peaks in demand.”

Ipswich Hospital has reported an “unprecedented demand” for its services over the Christmas week and said it was working with commissioners to identify the cause of the surge in admissions.

“Our staff have been magnificent in making sure that high quality, safe compassionate care has been provided at all times,” a hospital spokesman added.

“Despite the high volume of emergency admissions, we are managing to see as many patients as possible for planned care.”

Admissions at the hospital are said to be “wide ranging”, with no specific illness or injury accounting for the spike in demand.

Colchester General Hospital said it was “very busy” over Christmas and reminded people to use its accident and emergency department only for critical or life-threatening situations such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, overdoses, ingestion or poisoning.

The Trust thanked its staff for providing the “high quality of safe care expected by our patients” and also thanked its partner organisations for their support.