NHS trust issues black alert as patient pressure mounts

    Tunbridge Wells Hospital

    MAIDSTONE and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has been forced to issue two ‘black alerts’ since New Year, resulting in the cancelled or rescheduled operations, and measures to turn people away from A&E to seek treatment elsewhere.

    An OPEL 4 (Operational Pressures Escalation Levels) alert was first declared at Maidstone Hospital on January 2, followed by the same category of alert being issued at Tunbridge Wells on January 11.

    A black alert is a term used for OPEL 3 or 4, with a level four being the most serious, representing an acute shortage of available beds available.

    A spokesman for the trust said recent weeks had seen a ‘very high level’ of demand on services with a particular increase in patients suffering from respiratory illnesses, adding: “People can help us see and treat our patients as quickly as possible by making the most appropriate use of the full range of community and hospital-based health services available to them.

    “They can use the Health Help Now website or download the app to help find the right service in Kent and Medway for their health needs, especially when they need medical help fast but it is not a life-threatening emergency.

    “The site lists Minor Injuries Units and Urgent Care Centres too, as well as pharmacies and GP walk-in centres. People can also call NHS 111 when medical help is needed fast, but it’s not a 999 emergency.”