Hospital chiefs deny turning patients away from Pilgrim and Lincoln County hospitals – and diverting them to Grimsby – due to a bed shortage over Christmas.
But a source told the Free Press: “Both Lincoln and Boston ran out of beds. The hospitals at some time were diverting ambulances away – they were going to Grimsby.
“Boston at one point had 15 ambulances waiting outside.”
The source, who asked not to be named, said bed-blocking was partly to blame and one patient had waited several hours for medication to be dispensed by the hospital’s pharmacy before being allowed home.
A spokesman for United Lincolnshire Health Trust (ULHT) said she didn’t think there would have been 15 ambulances waiting at one time at Pilgrim.
She said: “No patients were diverted elsewhere. We were busy and we had enough room for everybody and my understanding is neighbouring hospitals were very busy as well.”
Christmas saw a 30 per cent surge in the number of people going to accident and emergency (A&E) departments at Lincolnshire’s hospitals, making it the busiest year yet in our area.
ULHT director for operations Michelle Rhodes said: “Winter is traditionally a busy time for the NHS but due to the four-day Christmas weekend, cold weather and short-term staff sickness, all our hospitals are experiencing high demand for all urgent care services.
“All staff at our hospitals are coping really well and working hard. Thanks to all the fantastic staff and all health and social care agencies working together providing best care, we were able to open more beds and are now discharging more patients home or to other services.
“I want everyone to think twice before they go to A&E – if it’s not serious or life threatening, you shouldn’t be there. Some people are visiting A&E with minor ailments such as ear aches, coughs and colds. This adds to the pressure on this valuable service during the winter months. Only attend A&E or call 999 with a real emergency such as serious trauma, suspected stroke or heart attack. Leave A&E for those who really need it.”
Johnson Community Hospital in Spalding saw 208 patients at its minor injuries unit (MIU) between December 20-29 – up by two on the previous year.
Ginny Blackoe, from Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust, said: “This year has been the busiest yet in our area. We would urge anyone in the Spalding area who has an injury that is not an emergency to attend the MIU.”