Patients have been left lying on the floor in pain in A&E waiting rooms as they are forced to wait up to two days for a bed.
NHS Trusts in Merseyside have told patients not to come to A&E unless their condition is “life-threatening”, and hospitals will face extreme demand this winter.
Eyewitnesses have painted a bleak picture of the health service, saying doctors have been forced to treat people in corridors and in the back of ambulances while surrounded by other patients.
A patient at Royal Liverpool Hospital told the Echo: ‘There was a woman in the waiting room who was throwing up in bowls, but there were no staff around to help her, so other members of the public were helping her clear it up.
‘A member of staff told us there was a 30 hour wait for a bed. He had a big three page list of all the people waiting for a bed.
Elsewhere in the hospital, reports have circulated claiming a man was forced to wait more than 24 hours for a bed after suffering a stroke.
An elderly man also had to wait on a cart in a hallway for more than 30 hours before they could see him, it is claimed.
Meanwhile, at nearby Aintree Hospital, a fleet of around 15 ambulances could be seen lining up outside the emergency department entrance earlier this week, waiting to unload more patients needing treatment.
A source said: “People waited up to 21 hours just to be seen and there were people lying on the ground, some because they were in a lot of pain.”
“Then people were put into rooms with droplets and left. I’ve never seen anything like it.’
They said it was ‘heartbreaking’ to see staff put under so much stress, and they felt great sympathy for the nurses who were doing their best to do their jobs under such difficult circumstances.
At Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, a clinical support worker explained the scale of the problem, saying: “We are completely overwhelmed.”
They continued: ‘A&E has capacity for about 60 patients and now we’re getting 150 at any one time. There are four or five corridors with carts full of patients because there are no beds, it’s crazy, I’ve never seen it like this.
“We have heart attack patients who we don’t have carts or beds for, so they’re sitting waiting in chairs. We have to ration care, we have to decide who gets the next car with 20-30 people waiting for it.’
The worker added that although the system generally had a rough few weeks over the winter, the scale of the crisis meant that departments were beginning to find themselves overwhelmed throughout the year.
The dire situation has also led many healthcare professionals to quit their jobs after years of service.
In an attempt to manage the problem, hospitals across the country have declared ‘critical incidents’ in recent days, allowing them to take steps such as seeking help from other services, referring patients to nearby hospitals and deploying more staff to the front lines.
Critical incidents are rarely used and are typically only reserved for major incidents, but trusts have been forced to turn them on for days at a time to keep up with demand.
A Wirral University Teaching Hospital spokesman said: “As is being experienced nationally, we are currently seeing an unprecedented demand in the number of patients attending our Emergency Department.”
‘The staff are working tirelessly to provide the highest standards of care and ensure our sickest patients are seen first. While patient safety in the Emergency Department remains a top priority, we have many patients who no longer need to be in the hospital but require continued support from the community.
We are working very hard with regional teams, partner organizations and the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to facilitate the safe transfer of patients and timely discharge of patients out of our hospitals.
‘The health and well-being of staff remains a priority, especially in times of high demand for our services.
‘The Trust has a lot of support for staff, such as counselling, health and wellness areas, Freedom to Speak Up Wardens and pastoral teams to support staff with any concerns they may have.
“While we have strong plans in place to ensure the Trust can provide all essential services over the winter, we would ask patients to only attend the Emergency Department if it is an emergency.
“If it is not an emergency, there are other more appropriate alternatives such as calling 111 for advice, going to a pharmacy or speaking with a GP.”
Get in touch with our news team by sending us an email at [email protected].
For more stories like this, see our news page.