South Yorkshire hospital declares rare 'black alert' as more than 300 patients arrive at A&E

Barnsley Hospital has declared a rare ‘black alert’ as it was flooded with patients in its A&E department just days after NHS groups warned of record admissions.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 8:57 am

Internal emails sent to staff, seen by The Independent, said that the hospital was at breaking point, having seen more than 300 patients admitted to its emergency department each day.

Last Tuesday it said it had reached ‘OPEL 4 status’, also known as a ‘black alert’, due to ‘operational pressures escalation level’. This level of alert is reserved for when hospitals are unable to deliver comprehensive care due to the pressures it faces, meaning patient safety is at risk.

An email that morning warned staff of a ‘challenging’ shortage of beds, with 15 of the 40 patients in the A&E department currently awaiting a bed.

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Barnsley Hospital.
Barnsley Hospital.

This escalated to 80 patients waiting in the emergency department by the evening. 20 of these were awaiting medical beds that were unavailable.

The acute medical unit was also said to be full, with 12 patients awaiting beds, and staff were encouraged to “do everything possible” to free up beds.

An update later in the day confirmed to staff the ‘black alert’ due to “severe pressures due to the flow of emergency patients into and through the hospital”.

The spike in demand is believed to be due to sickness unrelated to Covid-19.

This comes after a warning was issued last week by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine that emergency departments across the country were becoming overwhelmed by patient demand.

The college said at least 30 emergency departments were in this situation.