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By Matthew Bates Wednesday 22 May 2013 Updated: 22/05 16:55
A CRISIS point has been reached at Solihull Hospital's accident and emergency department, a top doctor has admitted.
The Lode Lane site has witnessed 'toxic overcrowding' and unprecedented pressures over the last few months.
The revelations were made by Ola Erinfolami, clinical lead for emergency medicine at Solihull Hospital, who was one of 20 top doctors from the Midlands to sign a letter outlining the strain they were under.
This week that letter - sent to NHS chiefs - was leaked to the national press.
It reveals how nurses and doctors are forced to deliver care in corridors, routinely sacrifice patient privacy and dignity and operate at the absolute margins of clinical safety.
The letter goes on: "Our departments are simply not equipped to safely care for such numbers of patients, an increasing proportion of whom are elderly and frail with complex medical, nursing and social needs.
"All of the available evidence demonstrates that in-hospital mortality is increased when the emergency department is overcrowded and patients have to wait excessively for beds.
"Such overcrowding is now the norm in our emergency departments.
"The position is such that we can no longer guarantee the provision of safe and high quality medical and nursing care in our emergency departments.
"It is not a case of standards slipping, but the inevitable consequence of being forced to work in sub-standard conditions."
Representatives from 18 of the region's 21 emergency departments signed the letter.
More than 1.5 million patients attend those departments every year in a region of 5.36 million.
The letter added: "We know there is no simple answer to this conundrum; however as things have continued to escalate in this unrelenting fashion with detrimental effects on patients and staff alike, it would be unethical of us not to highlight this to our Executive teams and Clinical Commissioning Groups."
Dr Aidan MacNamara, clinical director for emergency medicine at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust which runs Solihull Hospital, admitted that the pressures in all three of the trust's emergency care departments had proven to be extremely challenging in recent months due to several reasons including increased number of patients, increased frailty of patients and increased complexity of patients due to increasing chronic disease.
He added: “The Trust had instituted a number of changes in anticipation of these and has been working on a regular basis with all partners to minimise the anticipated impact of seasonal increases in demand.
"We continue to work with them and a programme of work is currently being undertaken to determine how the situation can be improved moving forward."
Dr Macnamara urged people to think carefully before using A&E and to contact their GP or NHS Direct unless in real emergencies.
He also urged people to visit one of their closure-threatened Walk-in centres - for more on the Solihull Walk-in Centre turn to page 9.
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