Heart attack patients told to 'get a lift' to hospital amid Covid staff shortages

4 January 2022, 20:18 | Updated: 4 January 2022, 23:31

Six hospitals have been forced to declare major incidents.
Six hospitals have been forced to declare major incidents. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Some patients are being asked to get a lift to hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance amid "unprecedented demand" and crippling Covid staff shortages.

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The move affects patients with suspected heart attacks and strokes, according to an internal note at North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

The Health Service Journal reported that the note said where there was likely to be a risk from the delay in an ambulance reaching a patient, call handlers should "consider asking the patient to be transported by friends or family".

It comes as several hospitals in England have been forced to resort to emergency plans due to staff absences while some non-urgent surgeries have been paused in Greater Manchester.

The region's Health and Social Care Partnership said other appointments that aren't urgent have also been put on hold, while an NHS leader warned of a "state of crisis".

At least six hospital trusts across England have declared critical incidents, where priority services may be under threat.

It comes as Boris Johnson pledged 100,000 daily tests for critical workers at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, as the nation battles staff shortages.

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said 15% of its staff were absent due to Covid and said of its decision to pause some surgery: "Patients who will be affected by this are being contacted.

"This is a temporary measure, and the aim is to impact the fewest number of patients. It will not affect cancer and urgent care including cardiac surgery, vascular surgery and transplantation.

"The Christie will continue to provide cancer care in a Covid secure way and Rochdale continues to provide cancer and other urgent surgery as a Covid secure site for Greater Manchester.

"In addition, our diagnostic services, including endoscopy, and the majority of our out-patient services will continue wherever possible."

One of the hospitals affected is United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, where "extreme and unprecedented" staff shortages are expected to result in "compromised care".

Chief executive of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, Aaron Cummins, also confirmed in a statement that the trust had declared an "internal critical incident".

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It comes after chief executive of the NHS Confederation Matthew Taylor said "in many parts of the health service, we are currently in a state of crisis".

"Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave to enable them to sustain core services," he wrote in a blog published on Monday.

Bin collections and train services have also been hit by staff shortages following the festive period.

It comes after days of complaints around the availability of Covid tests, with them not being available online and stocks in pharmacies being patchy.