A number of NHS trusts across the North East and North Yorkshire were close to declaring critical incidents today as health bosses across the region warned pressures across A&E, urgent care, and ambulance services are still at extreme levels at the start of the New Year

The North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said they were seeing "large numbers of patients attending our hospitals due to winter pressures" and they had avoided declaring a critical incident thanks to 'committed staff and robust systems'.

Queues of ambulances could been seen outside North Tees Hospital this afternoon, whilst meanwhile York and Scarborough NHS hospitals faced “some of the busiest days our two acute hospitals have ever seen” this week.

It comes as the Prime Minister admitted patients are not getting the “care they deserve”, as he warned that “something has to change” in the NHS.

Rishi Sunak said pressures facing the health service were the “biggest worry” for people.

He said, however, that the NHS should not pause non-emergency surgeries to alleviate the current crisis.

Amid warnings from senior doctors that the NHS is under intolerable pressure, the Prime Minister said that “waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly”.

The Government has blamed high numbers of flu cases, Covid-19 and Strep A fears for the particular pressures the NHS faced over Christmas, even as health leaders have warned that the problems are longstanding and cannot solely be pinned on the pandemic.

The message to patients in the North East and North Cumbria remains to only call 999 or visit A&E if their condition is a threat to life or limb.

Patients can expect long waits as services focus attention on the most urgent cases. 

The Northern Echo: Ambulance outside University Hospital of North TeesAmbulance outside University Hospital of North Tees (Image: Sarah Caldecott, Newsquest)

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Dr Neil O'Brien, executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “In common with the health and care system across the country, our A&E and ambulance services are under huge pressure. 

“The risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from catching flu is very real. Hospitals and critical care units across our region are currently seeing a worrying number of patients being admitted due to the flu virus,

“It's not too late to have your flu jab and doing so will protect against severe illness and hospitalisation.”

A spokesperson for North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “We’re currently seeing large numbers of patients attending our hospitals due to winter pressures. This includes patients with flu and COVID-19. Thanks to our committed staff and robust systems we have avoided declaring a critical incident and admitted all patients as quickly as is possible.

“You can support keeping yourself, your family and our hospitals safe by taking up your seasonal immunisations, visiting your local pharmacy for help with common ailments and avoiding the spread of flu.

“Make sure you are stocked up on over-the-counter medication, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and cough medicine. And if you begin to feel unwell with flu-like symptoms, stay home, get plenty of rest, take medication and drink plenty of water.”

Scarborough General Hospital faced “one of the busiest days ever seen” on Wednesday following “sustained pressure” over a period of several weeks.

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In Harrogate, a man suffering from appendicitis was forced to sleep in his car overnight while waiting for treatment at Scarborough hospital due to a shortage of beds.

Michael Woodcock said that when he attended Scarborough hospital on December 27 he was triaged “fairly quickly” but due to a lack of beds, he had to spend the night in his car.

He said he was provided with blankets by nurses and had to wait around eight hours before being seen by a doctor but said he had no complaints about post-surgery care and did not blame hospital staff for the situation.

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A spokesperson for the NHS Trust said: “We have been under sustained pressure for several weeks which has escalated over the double bank holiday period, resulting in January 3, 2023, being one of the busiest our two acute hospitals have ever seen.

“We have high numbers of patients in our emergency departments awaiting admission, and we are simply not discharging patients in high enough numbers to create the capacity we need.”

A critical incident has not yet been declared by the Trust, but this is being kept “under close review.”

The NHS Trust added: “We would like to thank all our staff for their continued hard work and commitment under sustained pressure during this very challenging and difficult time.”

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South Tees NHS Foundation Trust echoed the sentiments of the ICB.

The Northern Echo approached County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust but did not receive a response.

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