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Full hospitals, long A&E waits, and ambulances diverted - new NHS figures show extent of pressure on Norfolk hospitals over Christmas and New Year

PUBLISHED: 15:32 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:48 04 January 2018

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

All three of Norfolk’s hospitals were completely full at points over the Christmas and New Year period, new data has revealed.

Figures from NHS digital which track how hospitals are performing over winter are released weekly from December to February, where demand on the health service traditionally rises.

And a new release, with data up to December 31, showed the immense pressure the county’s hospital were placed under.

MORE: Operations cancelled at all Norfolk hospitals due to extreme winter pressure

Between December 24 and 31, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) hit 100pc bed occupancy twice, with all other days being in the 80pc and 90pc range.

Both the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn and the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, reached 100pc bed occupancy three times each, and were at more than 90pc on all other days during the period.

MORE: Extra funding will provide additional GP appointments to help ease winter pressures

Some 1,008 ambulances arrived at NNUH A&E over the seven days, 91 of those were delayed by between 30 and 60 minutes, and 59 crews waited more than an hour. Four ambulances were diverted to other hospitals from NNUH on December 29 because the department was too busy.

At JPUH 594 ambulances arrived, with 68 waiting between 30 and 60 minutes, and 44 waiting more than a hour. More than half of the more than one hour waits happened on New Year’s Eve.

MORE: ‘What is clear now is the wheels are falling off the bus’ - Suffolk GP speaks out over pressures on the health service

At QEH 454 ambulances arrived over the period, with 155 waiting between 20 and 60 minutes to handover, and 88 waited more than an hour.

The data does not include those who made their way to A&E themselves.

The figures back up reports of long delays and extreme pressure at hospital front doors.

Taxis and private ambulances have been drafted in by the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) to get to patients who need them. A trust spokesman said demand remained high and on Tuesday the trust received about 4,200 999 calls. Usually, the service receives around 3,000 calls a day.

All non-urgent elective operations have been cancelled at JPUH for the rest of the week, while a number have also been postponed at JPUH and QEH.

Health chiefs praised staff for working under difficult conditions. QEH chief executive Jon Green said: “Our thanks, as always, go to our staff for maintaining excellent patient care during these busy times.”

Chief executive at JPUH Christine Allen said: “The latest figures simply reflect the exceptional pressure that our hospital has faced since the New Year period.

“In particular, it was an extremely challenging and demanding New Year weekend, with huge pressure in our A&E department and on our bed capacity.

“The efforts of our staff over the last few days have been immense and they have shown exceptional teamwork and dedication in caring for our patients.”

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