Operations have been cancelled with A&Es under strain

FAILED TARGET: New figures show Pilgrim's A&E is the worst of our local hospitals for seeing patients within four hours.
FAILED TARGET: New figures show Pilgrim's A&E is the worst of our local hospitals for seeing patients within four hours.

Peterborough City declared a “major incident” on Tuesday as it struggled to cope with soaring patient numbers – and Pilgrim was on “black alert” as its services were stretched.

Both hospitals – which take patients from South Holland – have cancelled planned operations and Peterborough was treating patients on trolleys as they waited for beds to become free.

Spalding’s Johnson Community Hospital is trying to relieve pressure on neighbouring hospitals by opening its Minor Injuries Unit to people with minor illnesses, like ear and throat infections, skin problems, eye conditions, stomach upsets, colds and flu – but only until the end of January. The unit opens 8am-6pm every day.

News of the pressure on the two A&E departments broke shortly after figures were released showing that the NHS in England had missed its four-hour waiting time target in A&E with performance dropping to its lowest level in a decade.

From October to December, 92.6 per cent of patients were seen with-in four hours – the target is 95 per cent.

Pilgrim had the worst record of any hospital in our area as it managed to see only 81.8 per cent of patients within four hours.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn – which treats patients from The Suttons – saw 89.9 per cent while Peterborough achieved 91.2 per cent.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT), which runs Pilgrim, declined to comment on the quarterly figure – instead issuing a statement about the rising pressures faced since Christmas.

ULHT director of operations Michelle Rhodes said: “Since Christmas, the whole of the NHS in Lincolnshire has faced significant demand on our services.

“We have a high number of very sick patients on our wards with complex health needs.

“In the 14 day period over Christmas and New Year, ULHT admitted 2,708 people, which is 583 more than the same period last year.

“The quality and safety of patient care is the trust’s number one priority.

“To help us concentrate on the patients with the greatest health needs, we are postponing some planned operations. This allows us to increase the number of beds for our sickest patients and draft in doctors and nurses onto the wards.

“A&E remains open as usual but is very busy.

“We ask people to only attend A&E with serious or life-threatening illnesses and to seek alternative support for ongoing problems or minor injuries.”

Peterborough City Hospital revealed on Tuesday that it had 19 people that lunchtime who needed emergency treatment and were without a bed.

The hospital also confirmed 17 operations had been cancelled in the previous 48 hours – and that 40 patients in the wards who were medically fit to be released had nowhere to go.

A Peterborough City Hospital spokeswoman said: “By declaring a major incident we are appealing for help from our health partners in the community.”

She said while the search went on for beds, space would be created in other areas of the hospital to ensure patients were not left on trolleys in corridors.

The hospital continued to carry out emergency and cancer surgery.

Neil Doverty, chief operating officer at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I would like to apologise to those patients who have had their operations cancelled as we appreciate it causes them great inconvenience. We will be rescheduling these operations as a priority in the coming weeks.”