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Operations cancelled at all Norfolk hospitals due to extreme winter pressure

PUBLISHED: 13:09 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:47 04 January 2018

Ambulances queued up outside the James Paget University Hospital. Picture: Submitted

Ambulances queued up outside the James Paget University Hospital. Picture: Submitted

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All non-urgent operations and day case procedures have been cancelled for the rest of the week at one of the county’s hospitals, as pressure on the health service continues to be high.

The James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), in Gorleston, has taken the drastic move as chief executive Christine Allen said the decision had “not been taken lightly” and was “unavoidable”.

Ms Allen said: “The James Paget University Hospital continues to face high demand from patients attending our A&E department, which remains extremely busy.

“This sustained pressure is affecting hospitals both regionally and nationally, which have seen a substantial increase in pressure following the Christmas and New Year break.

MORE: Taxis used by ambulance trust to take patients to A&E as pressure on NHS continues

James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston. Picture: NICK BUTCHER James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

“As a result, all non-urgent elective operations and day case procedures have been postponed for the rest of the week. However, emergency and cancer surgery will continue as planned.”

Patients affected are currently being informed and their procedures will be rescheduled in due course.

Any patient due to attend hospital that does not hear from the hospital should attend as planned.

Ms Allen added: “This decision has not been taken lightly – and we would like to apologise to those patients affected for any disruption or inconvenience caused.

Christine Allen, chief executive at the James Paget Hospital. Photo: Sonya Duncan Christine Allen, chief executive at the James Paget Hospital. Photo: Sonya Duncan

“However, in the light of the sustained pressure we are facing, this course of action is unavoidable as we have to prioritise patients who need urgent and emergency care.”

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, seven operations were cancelled yesterday (Wednesday), while none were cancelled today.

But patients booked in for outpatient procedures were urged to attend, with hospital chiefs expecting a raft of phone calls from concerned patients.

Chief executive Jon Green said: “Whilst we have cancelled some operations, and despite high levels of attendances at A&E, we would like to reassure the public that our outpatients appointments are running.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH

MORE: Nearly 500 ambulances waited more than an hour to handover patients over ‘extremely busy’ weekend

“So we would ask all patients to continue to attend their appointments as normal unless we contact them directly. However, we continually review the situation.”

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), 13 operations or procedures were cancelled on Tuesday, 15 yesterday, and 8 today - a total of 36 over three days.

Chief operating officer Richard Parker said: “In the event that an operation or procedure does need to be re-arranged, we will contact patients individually. In the meantime, patients should attend their appointments as planned.

Jon Green, new chief executive at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Picture: Victoria Fear Jon Green, new chief executive at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Picture: Victoria Fear

“We have already planned our elective programme in anticipation of this busy time and we will continue to review the situation as a matter of course.

“Our thanks, as always, go to our staff for maintaining excellent patient care during these busy times.”

It is understood some operations at the NNUH have been postponed since the statement.

Tens of thousands of patients nationally are expected to be affected after hospitals in England were told to delay pre-planned operations and routine outpatient appointments until the end of the month due to severe winter pressures.

Richard Parker, chief operating officer at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: NNUH Richard Parker, chief operating officer at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: NNUH

In a drastic step to try to free up hospital staff and beds, NHS England also said the deferral of non-urgent inpatient elective care - such as hip replacements - should be extended until January 31.

Officials have estimated that this could lead to up to 55,000 deferred operations, although cancer operations and time-critical procedures should go ahead as planned, NHS England said.

MORE: Patients wait for more than six hours at A&E as Norfolk hospitals come under ‘extreme pressure’

NHS England hopes the measures will free up senior hospital doctors to triage more patients in A&E, be available for phone advice for GPs and ensure that patients in hospitals are reviewed twice each day to help timely discharges.

The QEH and JPUH have both put out social media messages in recent days asking staff to get in contact if they are available to work.

Patients are being urged not to use A&E unless it is a genuine emergency. For minor conditions, GPs, pharmacies and the NHS 111 service will be able to assist or to signpost to the most appropriate service.

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