Devon

Derriford Hospital cancels 1,000 ops during 'black alert'

Derriford Hospital
Image caption "Black alert" means a hospital's services are overwhelmed by demand

More than 1,000 operations are thought to have been cancelled at a hospital in Devon that has been on "black alert" since January.

Plymouth Hospitals Trust said routine operations including hernia repair and knee and hip replacements had been cancelled at Derriford Hospital.

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has increased its alert from red to black.

"Black alerts" are also in place at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and Yeovil Hospital in Somerset.

The alert means a hospital's services are overwhelmed by demand.

'Very sorry'

Kevin Baber, chief operating officer for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "In January we cancelled about 700 operations either on the day of surgery or in advance.

"I would expect February to be the same, so it will be over 1,000 and we're very sorry about that."

Mr Baber said: "The patients that have attended our A&E department have needed to. We have not seen large numbers of patients attending who are inappropriate attenders."

He said he "could not answer" when the trust would not be on "black alert".With a fourth South West trust on black alert, the crisis afflicting the region's health service is deepening. The Royal Devon and Exeter (RD&E) and Yeovil are foundation trusts - a status awarded only to higher performing hospitals - yet even they are struggling to cope.

The fact that so many frail older people are in hospital adds to the strain. Latest figures show, in a single week, 361 patients couldn't be discharged from the RD&E because the care they needed wasn't in place.

Sally Mountjoy, BBC South West correspondent

With a fourth South West trust on black alert, the crisis afflicting the region's health service is deepening. The Royal Devon and Exeter (RD&E) and Yeovil are foundation trusts - a status awarded only to higher performing hospitals - yet even they are struggling to cope.

The fact that so many frail older people are in hospital adds to the strain. Latest figures show, in a single week, 361 patients couldn't be discharged from the RD&E because the care they needed wasn't in place.

Image caption The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has cancelled several operations since being on "black alert"

What is a black alert?

•The NHS uses a national internal alert system based on the colours green, amber, red and black to rank how busy a local health and social care system is

•Black alert status occurs when a hospital cannot cope with the number of people coming into the accident and emergency department because not enough people are being discharged

•It effectively means the hospital does not have enough bed capacity to cope

Matthew Beadnall, 23, has been suffering from severe abdominal pain since September 2014.

He was due to attend an appointment with a consultant at Derriford Hospital on 2 February but said it was cancelled four days before.

Mr Beadnall has another appointment on Monday but is expecting that to be cancelled.

He is on co-codamol painkillers "to keep the pain at bay" and said the last five months had been "a nightmare".

Image caption Matthew Beadnall was due to attend an appointment with a consultant on 2 February but it was cancelled four days before

Elsewhere, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has been on alert status since last Tuesday.

Dr Iain Chorlton, NHS Kernow governing body member, said: "Improvements continue to be seen across the health and care system and no elective operations have been cancelled today."

'More clinicians'

He said the status remained so it could continue to "focus on getting people home from hospital when they're ready to leave".

"Some of the steps we have taken to reduce pressure include increasing the number of clinicians working in and supporting the emergency department, including a GP working during peak times and more social workers in the department to help discharge people," he added.

The local authority, Cornwall Council is funding a recruitment campaign for more care workers in response to the crisis.

In Somerset, Yeovil District Hospital said it was contacting those patients whose appointments had been cancelled.

Paul Mears, chief executive, said 14 operations had been cancelled on Monday and Tuesday.

Torbay Hospital has been on red alert for the past week and Dorset County Hospital is also on red alert - one level below black.

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