PRINCESS Alexandra Hospital in Harlow was at full capacity in the first week of 2018.
The news comes as heads of more than 60 Accident & Emergency units have written to the Prime Minister warning that patients are “dying prematurely” amid “intolerable” safety risks reports the Daily Telegraph.
It came as official figures show Accident and Emergency performance at major units is the worst on record, with fears the situation will worsen amid rising cases of norovirus and flu.
The letter, reported by the Health Service Journal, told the prime minister that shortages of beds and staff meant patients were being put at higher risk of death.
Monthly figures from NHS England show just 77.3 per cent of patients treated at major units – known as type 1 A&Es – were seen within four hours – against a target of 95 per cent.
This is the worst performance since records began – below the previous low of 77.6 per cent recorded in January 2017 and the 79.3 per cent seen in December 2016.
The worst performance was at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, with just 40 per cent of patients seen within four hours last month, the figures show.
Only 67% of patients at PAH were seen within four hours.
Across all A&E units, performance was 85.1 per cent, the same as last January, which was the worst on record.
Just three out of 134 NHS trusts hit the 95 per cent A&E target, with just two trusts with major units achieving it, the figures show.
The latest statistics from NHS England show crowding on hospital wards is continuing to worsen, while levels of norovirus have risen by almost one third in a week.
In the letter to the Prime Minister, the clinical leads from 68 A&E units apologise to patients for putting safety at risk, as they demand a major cash injection.
As well as calling for “a significant increase in Social Care Funding to allow patients who are fit to be discharged from acute beds to be cared for in the community” they call for a review of hospital beds, which have been reduced in recent decades.
“In the meantime we would like to apologise to our patients for being unable to fulfil our pledge for a safe efficient service and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff,” the letter states.
In the letter to the Prime Minister, the clinical leads from 62 A&E units state: “We feel compelled to speak out in support of our hardworking and dedicated nursing, medical and allied health professional colleagues and for the very serious concerns we have for the safety of our patients.
“This current level of safety compromise is at times intolerable, despite the best efforts of staff.
“It has been stated that the NHS was better prepared for this winter than ever before. There is no question that a huge amount of effort and energy has been spent both locally and nationally on drawing up plans for coping with NHS winter pressures. Our experience at the front line is that these plans have failed to deliver anywhere near what was needed. ”
Acknowledging efforts across the NHS to tackle the pressures, it continues: “The facts remain however that the NHS is severely and chronically underfunded. We have insufficient hospital and community beds and staff of all disciplines especially at the front door to cope with our ageing population’s health needs.
“As you will know a number of scientific publications have shown that crowded Emergency Departments are dangerous for patients. The longer that the patients stay in ED after their treatment has been completed, the greater is their morbidity and associated mortality.
“Recent media coverage has reported numerous anecdotal accounts of how appalling the situation in an increasing number of our Emergency Departments has become. These departments are not outliers. Many of the trusts we work in are in similar positions,” it warns.
NHS England has stopped publishing weekly figures measuring A&E performance. But the figures, from those in charge of around half of A&E departments state: “Last week’s 4 hour performance target was between 45 and 75%. Thousands of patients are waiting in ambulances for hours as the hospitals lack adequate space. ”
The senior doctors said their hospitals were dealing with:
Over 120 patients a day managed in corridors, some dying prematurely
An average of 10-12 hours from decision to admit a patient until they are transferred to a bed
Over 50 patients at a time waiting beds in the Emergency Department
Patients sleeping in clinics as makeshift wards
It comes as hospital chiefs said the NHS was at a “watershed moment” and needs tens of billions in extra cash to deliver the required levels of care.
Health officials said the four-hour A&E performance in December was the same as it was last January, even though the NHS had treated almost 40,000 more patients within four hours.
Latest figures show a tripling in patients hospitalised with flu, with one in four cases suffering from the deadliest strain, dubbed Australian flu, after it fuelled the country’s worst season for two decades.
Meanwhile there were record calls to 111, with 1.68 million such calls last December, up from 1.48 million the previous year.
An NHS England spokesman said: “Despite the clear pressure on the NHS in December, with rising levels of flu and record numbers of 111 calls and hospital admissions, we managed to hold A&E performance at the same level as last January.
“We also saw the best seasonal performance on NHS delayed transfers of Care in four years, and went into winter with cancer and routine surgery waits both showing improvements.”
The latest weekly figures show 23 trusts which hit 100 per cent occupancy in the week ending 7 January.
Hospitals which hit 100 per cent capacity in the week ending January 7
The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Weston Area Health NHS Trust
East Cheshire NHS Trust
North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust
Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Isle Of Wight NHS Trust
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust
Lewisham And Greenwich NHS Trust
Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Tameside And Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
East And North Hertfordshire NHS Trust
Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust
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