Sheila Yates is in agony. Pain is etched on her face and she moans as she is lifted onto her bed by the paramedics who brought her here.
Sheila is the 120th ER patient to be seen by the Royal Preston Hospital in one day.
And it’s only two o’clock in the afternoon.
She has ongoing issues with her spine and needs chronic pain management.
Not far from Sheila is Muriel Hargreaves. Muriel tells me she is 88 and a half.
The half she says is important. Muriel was hospitalized for high blood pressure. This gives him problems with his heart.
She says: “It’s a certain problem I have with my heart. They haven’t named it yet because they haven’t come to a definite conclusion.
“But they’re doing everything they can to get to the bottom before…before I get home.”
Muriel has been here for over 24 hours. She should be in a bed in a ward, but there’s no room.
This means that all investigations to find out what is wrong with her should be done in the emergency department.
It’s not ideal, but it’s the only way to ensure that she receives the same care and treatment.
Samantha Wright is the emergency department nurse caring for Muriel.
“Do not lack care”
She said to me: “She does not miss any care. Normally, the investigations that are carried out in the service, that is to say the specialty to which she belongs, should normally see her again in the service and put a plan in place.
“But unfortunately, due to the lack of medical beds that Muriel needs at the moment…all of these investigations have taken place here in the emergency department.”
Andy Curran is a consultant in emergency medicine and started his career here at the Royal Preston Hospital 25 years ago.
HOSPITAL PRESSURE IN ENGLAND “HIGH”
Hospital pressures in England “remain high” with staff facing increasing numbers of street checks as well as ambulance arrivals, NHS England said.
Over 93% of general and acute beds were occupied last week. This equates to almost 500 more adult patients per day than the previous week.
Staff absences due to COVID-19 decreased week over week in all regions. However, most regions are still reporting higher numbers than at the start of December.
One of the toughest winters
During this period, it experienced many harsh winters. But this is one of its biggest challenges.
“Every time we think things can’t get any harder, they seem to, and more and more patients have come through,” he said.
Mr. Curran told me that the patients who arrived were much sicker because they had delayed their treatment.
These patients, he said, were “going up and up.”
Eleven-year-old Katrina Ward is typical of patients who present later. She suspects appendicitis and has been suffering for a month.
She came to the hospital when she fell ill at school this morning.
“I was going to school,” Katrina said. “But it was already painful before I went, it was like a normal morning, and I got to school and it got really painful so I decided to call my mum.”
On the hospital grounds, construction continues on one of Nightingale’s regional surge centers.
It will provide additional capacity in the event of a large increase in Omicron admissions.
This increase has not materialized in numbers that could overwhelm the NHS and the Prime Minister has lifted Plan B restrictions due to falling COVID infections.
Will the bet pay off? Plan B rules end – but is it too soon?
Kevin McGee, chief executive of the trust that runs the Royal Preston Hospital, says the hub is an important safety net in the event of a new wave.
“Nightingale surgery if we don’t use that I would say it’s a success, it’s a much needed facility. It’s an insurance policy, and it’s the right thing to do. We plan so the worst, but clearly hoping for the best.”
Planning for a pandemic-resistant future makes sense, but for patients like Muriel, the present matters just as much.