Four black alerts in three weeks

Boston Pilgrim Hospital. ENGEMN00120130924102319 ENGEMN00120130924102319
Boston Pilgrim Hospital. ENGEMN00120130924102319 ENGEMN00120130924102319
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From October 23 to November 9 this year, there have already been four level four black alerts.

A Pilgrim Hospital spokesman said each one had been for less than a day but said each one had been triggered by the number of people in A&E and lack of beds.

Here’s some of the criteria United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust’s executive directors use to escalate to level four, which is decided by health and care servies partners.

There are more but these are the primary criteria:

* A&E - All bays and resuscitation trolleys full on all sites

* Number of acute beds available including whether there are no beds available or upcoming in the next two hours

* Unable to open any more escalation beds

* Whether the bed capacity in community services such as respite care is 100 per cent full with no discharges for 24 hours.

Patients asked to consider their need

Although the hospitals and trusts say they are doing more to help ease the pressure on health services this winter, there is more that patients can do too.

Director of operations at Pilgrim Hospital Tina White told the Free Press that people often bypassed GPs and came straight to hospital because they know that they’ll be seen – even with minor illnesses or injuries.

She said: “People come to us because they know we can’t turn them away, we have a statutory obligation to treat people.”

She said people often don’t know about, or ignore other services that could be just as helpful to them.

There were also cultural differences with those from other countries who may be used to going to a hospital for all their illnesses.

She said people were, for example, choosing to travel from places such as Skegness to Pilgrim for minor ailments or cuts and scrapes.

Mrs White added: “We do have a GP out of hours service in the A&E department and we do work with GPs.

“When we triage people if they could have used a GP we ask them if they would like to.”

There are other places people can go to get treatment such as pharmacies, urgent care centres and the 111 number as well as the NHS Choices website – which Mrs White admits some people may not be aware of.

There are dangers and inconveniences in attending unnecessarily too - such as with illnesses like the norovirus which can spread across a hospital.

When a patient attends with such an illness, once they are processed a cleaning team has to be sent in to prevent the spread of germs.

Following an outbreak of illnesses such as norovirus, wards have to be closed and quarantined.

Once cleared they then have to undergo a ‘deep clean’ including taking the light fittings out and the radiators off the walls and the ward being steam cleaned.

Mrs White said this can mean a ward can be out of action for a number of days.

Where can you go instead of A&E?

Here are a few of the places across Lincolnshire you can go if you feel unwell, or suffer minor injuries both locally or further afield which may not necessarily need the accident and emergency department.

* General Practitioner – your GP may be able to deal with you over the phone or by an appointment.

* NHS 111 – a service which makes it easier to access NHS services. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and is free. You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it is not a 999 emergency.

Both the above have access to the GP Out of Hours service.

* Your local pharmacist can also provide confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints.

Minor Injury Units

* Johnson Community Hospital, Spalding Road, Pinchbeck, tel: 01775 652000. Open 8am-6pm, seven days a week

* John Coupland Hospital, Ropery Road, Gainsborough, tel: 01427 816502. Open 8am-8pm, seven days a week

* Stamford Hospital, Ryhall Road, tel: 01780 764151. Open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday

* Sleaford Medical Group, Boston Road, tel: 01529 419100. Open 8am-8pm, seven days a week (closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Easter Sunday)

Urgent Care Centres

* Skegness Hospital, on Dorothy Avenue, tel: 01754 613504.

* County Hospital, High Holme Road, Louth, tel: 01507 600100 ext 1223.

Both the above are open 24 hours, seven days a week (including Christmas Day and Bank Holidays)

Walk-In Centres

* Lincoln Walk-In Centre, on Monks Road, tel: 01522 528153. The centre is open from 8am-8pm, seven days a week (except for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday).