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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Hospitals are facing a winter crisis as a sharp rise in cases of flu and other viruses forces some to close wards to new patients.

Hospitals forced to close wards as virulent winter bug spreads
report in the Sunday Telegraph

Extract 1:

"The vomiting bug norovirus – the most common gastrointestinal illness in the UK, affecting up to a million people every year – is causing particular problems, with NHS chiefs forced to warn sufferers to stay away from doctors' surgeries and hospitals for fear of spreading it further.

Affected hospitals include Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Worcestershire Royal Hospital and York Hospital.

Several trusts said the knock-on effect was making it difficult to meet the Government's target of admitting, or dealing with, 98 per cent of emergency patients within four hours.

One of London's three major trauma centres, St George's in Tooting, was issued a 'black alert' and closed its doors to emergencies for a number of hours on Monday after experiencing a 14 per cent surge in demand compared to the same period last year.

Staff at St George's reported that up to 20 patients requiring urgent admission had to be kept on beds in A&E as wards were full.

Some were diverted to neighbouring hospitals, including Mayday in Croydon, Kingston Hospital and St Helier in Sutton, all of which reported pressure on their own capacity.

The Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital closed its doors to all visitors last week after 12 of its 49 wards were infected, forcing it to postpone about 60 non-urgent operations.

It faced extra pressure from emergency admissions caused by falls on ice, with nearly 100 people going into the emergency department with ice-related injuries on Monday alone.

In Carlisle, two elderly care wards at the Cumberland Infirmary were closed last week in a bid to isolate the norovirus bug. Nearby Wigton cottage hospital was closed to all admissions and non-emergency transfers for the second time in a fortnight.

Two wards at East Surrey Hospital closed, while five at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn were shut or under observation.

At the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, six wards were closed, reducing the number of beds available to patients by 130.

Sarah Byrom, the chief nurse, said: "While norovirus is common for this time of year, we have seen a big increase in the number of people coming into the hospital with symptoms.""

As usual, the Department of Health is on another planet:

Extract 2:

"A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Winter crises used to bedevil the NHS. Thanks to record investment and better organisation we have not had a major winter crisis for several years. However, we constantly update our contingency plans in the light of events.""

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