Stoke & Staffordshire

Stoke-on-Trent hospital: Major incident continues

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Media captionLast week University Hospitals North Midlands recorded the worst A&E figures in England, with just over 61% of patients seen within four hours

A "major incident" is ongoing at a Staffordshire hospital.

The Royal Stoke University Hospital, run by the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, has been affected by "unprecedented" levels of patient demand, which has seen operations cancelled.

The BBC understands Royal Stoke shut the doors of it A&E department for about 30 minutes on Monday.

The trust put the rise in patients down to a pneumonia outbreak.

Last week, the University Hospitals of the North Midlands (UHNM) trust recorded the worst A&E figures in England, with just 61.3% of patients seen within four hours, compared with a national target of 95%.

'Overwhelming levels'

The major incident, which began at about 22:00 GMT on Monday, applies to the whole of the hospital trust.

Stuart Gardiner, a West Midlands Ambulance paramedic and vice-chairman of Unison's West Midlands Ambulance branch, said ambulances were unable to get patients into Royal Stoke for some time on Monday.

"They actually locked the front doors for the A&E department so we couldn't get in," he said.

Mr Gardiner believes the department has shut its doors to ambulances four times previously.

The trust said it was unable to confirm whether access to A&E had been denied to paramedics.

Pneumonia 'outbreak'

Mark Hackett, the chief executive of the Royal Stoke, said: "The term 'major incident' may sound quite scary but what it means is we are stepping up... to deal with the overwhelming levels of increased demand.

"Over the last three weeks we have seen an increase in pneumonia.

"There's clearly an outbreak in North Staffordshire and we need to look after those patients."

The Royal Stoke - formerly the University Hospital of North Staffordshire - has had one of the worst-performing A&E departments in the country.

The problem has been exacerbated by the closure of Stafford Hospital's A&E overnight from 2011 and the movement of services from Stafford to Stoke since the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which ran Stafford Hospital, was dissolved.

In July, the trust - formerly the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust - was one of 19 referred to ministers after auditors raised concerns about their financial health.

Its finances have previously been said to be of "significant concern" due, in part, to the increased cost of the new Stoke hospital, which was built under a private finance initiative.

The Support Stafford Hospital Campaign, which called for the town to retain its services, said: "Plans to transfer services from Stafford to Stoke must now be put on hold.

"The safety of patients must come first."

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