NHS crisis worsens as Covid surge and heatwave trigger ambulance ‘black alert’

THE NHS is suffering as Covid cases surge and the heatwave triggers ambulance "black alerts".

A combination of increased infections hitting staff and the effects of the hot weather have reportedly heaped more pressure on hospitals.


More than half of the staff at one trust are thought to be off work due to isolation rules, as Covid patients rise by a third in a week.

It comes as Britain eased restrictions yesterday in a cautious move to break free from lockdown – but Delta cases are still rising.

The Independent reports hospitals and ambulance services have been hit as workers are moved onto new Covid wards.

And 999 calls are claimed to be going unanswered for minutes at a time due to a lack of call handlers.

One Yorkshire-based paramedic said emergency calls were being put on hold before answering, and one waited 12 minutes for an answer.

They said: “It’s not safe. When I look at the jobs, I know in that stack there are jobs that we are going to miss.

"No matter how good the triage we are going to miss things just through the sheer volume of what there is. We’ve been at record levels for a month, no one knows why this is happening.”

A spokesperson for Yorkshire Ambulance Service said it had seen high demand in the past few weeks.

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They added: “We are continuing to respond to those in need as swiftly as possible, but acknowledge that some patients are having to wait longer than we would like them to.

"All emergency calls are categorised according to the nature of a patient’s illness or injury and those in a life-threatening condition are always prioritised.”

And bosses in the West Midlands said there was unprecedented levels of demand, with not enough call handlers to cope.

In England at least seven out of ten ambulance service trusts are thought to be reporting "extreme pressure" – often referred to as "black alert" incidences.

It is the most serious of the Operations Pressure Escalation Levels – used to measure stress, demand and pressure on the NHS.

Surgeries have been cancelled or delayed at a number of hospitals around the country, as staff isolate after being pinged.

And many trusts are rejigging their wards once again to make space for the growing number of Covid patients.

 

Ellen Ryabov, chief operating officer at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – one of the hospitals suffering with staff isolations and patient influxes – said: “We continue to experience pressures on our bed capacity at Hull Royal Infirmary but last week was no different to other recent weeks.

“We did not see large numbers of patients waiting in our emergency department for the length of time described although we have had some patients waiting far longer than we would like to be admitted onto a ward. We apologise to them for those delays."

The latest figures show 39,950 people tested positive for Covid yesterday.

Over the weekend 48,161 new cases were reported – the highest daily toll since January this year when the country went into lockdown.

Last night Boris Johnson poured a bucket of caution over Freedom Day – and warned the pandemic "is far from over".

In a stern address from his Chequers quarantine, the PM begged Brits not to go crazy despite today's big bang unlocking and continue isolating if pinged.

The Government expects cases to soar as the restraints are flung off but is banking on vaccines keeping hospitalisations and deaths right down.

Speaking down a scratchy video link the PM said: "There comes a point when restrictions no longer prevent hospitalisations and deaths, but simply delay the inevitable.

"And so we have to ask ourselves the question: if not now, when?"

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