Hospital: Particular difficulties

I am writing in response to your coverage of the major incident that was declared at Scarborough Hospital (Scarborough News, January 7).

As you will be aware, it was widely reported that a similar situation was faced by a significant number of other acute hospitals around the country at the same time. In some acute trusts it was not the first occasion this winter that they felt compelled to respond to the situation in this way.

Those of us working in acute healthcare have experienced the challenges of increasing activity levels for some time. Scarborough Hospital faces particular difficulties as a result of its relatively small size and a resultant inability to easily increase the number of patients it is able to accommodate at times of pressure within the system.

The reasons for last week’s major incident were multi-factorial: sustained pressure as a result of large numbers of very unwell elderly patients, often with chest infections, coming at the end of a two week period of reduced services over Christmas and New Year being the main factor.

At Scarborough Hospital alone there was a 92 per cent increase in the number of patients being admitted with chest infections in December compared with November. There is no evidence, however, of any change in activity at the town centre walk-in centre having any impact on attendances at the Emergency Department. It is the increase in frail elderly patients that require admission to a hospital bed that has overwhelmed the system.

I would like to pay tribute to all the staff working in the acute care system who have coped remarkably well in very difficult and unprecedented circumstances. I would also like to thank all our patients and their relatives whose patience and understanding have helped the hospital cope in these difficult times.

Ed Smith,

Lead Consultant in Emergency Medicine,

Scarborough Hospital