ALL pre-planned operations at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital have been cancelled as its chief nurse admitted ‘significant pressures’ on the A&E department were taking their toll – with things set to get even worse.
New figures revealed the county’s A&E departments had seen more than 5,400 patients over the past two weeks – a 28 per cent rise on the same period last year.
On Friday morning, Oxfordshire University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust cancelled all non-urgent pre-planned operations at the JR to free up space.
The trust could not confirm how many people are affected, but Rosalind Pearce of independent watchdog Healthwatch Oxfordshire said it would impact on a large number of patients.
All operations and surgeries at the Headington hospital were cancelled and it will continue for at least the whole of Monday.
Prime Minister Theresa May admitted the NHS was ‘under pressure’ and a spokesman from NHS England warned the flu season peak was still yet to come.
Since Boxing Day staff in the emergency department have treated on average 388 people each day, compared to a 304 a day last year.
The trust’s chief nurse Catherine Stoddart said: “We have taken this decision to improve the flow of patients through the hospital so we can ensure that we can continue to see patients in our emergency department in a timely way.
“Staff across our hospitals, in both of our emergency departments and on our medical and surgical wards are working extremely hard and doing an excellent job providing good quality care in spite of the pressures.
“All patients affected by this decision have been notified.”
Ms Stoddart warned people across the county to consider all their options before going to A&E as staff tried to deal with increased demand.
Earlier this week it was revealed the county’s main hospital had been at the second highest level of warning - Opel 3 - since December 19.
The alert signals ‘severe’ deterioration in A&E waiting times or a significant lack of beds.
Independent watchdog Healthwatch Oxfordshire said the Trust’s move was a ‘wise decision’ but signified just how bad things had become.
Executive director Rosalind Pearce also said it would impact on a large number of patients.
She said: “Cancelling an operation can have a profound effect on patients, often people have to arrange time off work or for family to support them in getting to and from hospital.
“Then there’s obviously those in ongoing pain waiting for an operation.
“The hospital must be at a point where it had no choice but to cancel operations - it would not have taken this decision lightly.”
She added: “It certainly indicates the state of the NHS at the moment, and more locally the pressures on the A&E department at the John Radcliffe.
She added: “It’s a wise decision but obviously there will be an impact on some patients.”
Mrs Pearce hoped the Trust had a plan in place to prevent a backlog of operations and surgeries.
She said: “It’s not as simple as someone who has had their operation cancelled on Monday coming in again on Tuesday, unfortunately.
“There will be a knock-on effect of this, it will be a domino effect which hopefully the Trust have a plan to deal with.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “A&E visits were higher last week than the week before, but emergency hospital admissions moderated slightly.
“The number of OPEL 3 and 4 days increased, compared with the previous week, but the number of A&E diverts fell.
“Norovirus is 77 per cent higher than last year, but the flu peak is probably still to come.”