Pictures taken at Portsmouth hospital have shown ambulances stacked up waiting outside, offering a stark illustration of the pressure the health service is currently under. The situation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital is so extreme patients are being asked to avoid its accident and emergency department unless they are suffering from “life-threatening injuries or illnesses”.
The photographs, taken at the front of the hospital, show 22 ambulances queued up outside, spelling lengthy waits for patients needing treatment.
One shows paramedics wheeling a man into the department with a phalanx of vehicles behind them.
A statement carried on the website of Portsmouth University Hospitals NHS Trust says: “The QA hospital site remains incredibly busy, and we will only be using our Emergency Department (ED) for life-threatening injuries or illnesses.
“You will be redirected to alternative services if you arrive at our ED requiring minor care.
“Please make sure you use NHS 111 Online and Pharmacies to get help and advice on non-life threatening injuries and illnesses.”
The Trust declared a critical incident on Thursday to protect patient safety, explaining that the hospital and emergency department were “over full” with demand “far outstripping the capacity available in Portsmouth and South-East Hampshire”.
To this end, the hospital is calling on relatives or friends to take patients home from hospital as soon as they are declared ready to leave.
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Dr John Knighton, Medical Director at PHU said: ”As soon as a person is medically ready to leave hospital, they should be discharged to their place of residence.
“Every time one patient leaves hospital it helps a further four patients move through the hospital to ensure they get the care they need in a timely way.
“This means the emergency department is free for those that need lifesaving care, and ambulances are able to quickly return to the community to provide emergency support to people.”
Liz Rix, Chief Nurse, added: “We know that the longer a patient stays in hospital the greater the risk of deconditioning where immobility and inactivity causes muscle weakness, walking difficulty and an increased risk of falls and injury.
“At a time when our services are really stretched the extra support patients receive from those closest to them can really help with their recovery and returning to good health and independence.
“Just making sure your relative or friend is home safe, will not only help them recover but help us to care for another Portsmouth person who needs a hospital bed.”