Between January and March this year, 34 patients waited on trolleys for at least 12 hours and during that time, nurses complained to the Royal College of Nursing that “relentless pressures” were compromising patient care.
The latest evidence pointing to a crisis comes from a survey of patients who ranked Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals’ (BSUH) A&E services “worse” than emergency units at other hospitals.
The survey, organised by the Care Quality Commission was conducted between September 2012 and January this year. Board papers issued by BSUH last month reveal the County Hospital has “remained frequently” on its emergency contingency plan to divert medical patients to other hospitals.
Tony Reynolds, who chairs the Independent Patients’ Forum for Central Sussex, said: “A patient told me as far back as July that she had seen seven ambulances waiting outside A&E with patients. As long as ambulances are tied down in Brighton they can’t go elsewhere.”
A BSUH spokesperson said: “We are spending £500,000 in increasing the number of nurses and other clinical staff; we are planning to recruit three new acute medical consultants and three new emergency department consultants, and we are carrying out weekly reviews of patient feedback to ensure we are providing the best-possible care.
“The reasons for the increased pressure are complex and far-reaching and involve services outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital as well as within.
“BSUH becoming a major trauma centre has made an impact on the way we work but it is far too simplistic to single out this additional service as the reason for the recent pressure.
“From April 1 to December 31, 2012 almost 3,000 more people attended our emergency departments than for the same period in the previous year but the number of trauma calls represented less than one per cent per month.”
Dr Minesh Patel, clinical lead for Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The majority of our patients will be seen at the Princess Royal Hospital, which has not experienced the same level of issues.”
The trust, which is moving towards Foundation status, is awaiting Treasury sign-off on a £400million capital programme at the County Hospital, which could solve its capacity issues.