Packed A&E department at Barnet Hospital forced to turn ambulances away during 'internal emergency' after Chase Farm closure

This Is Local London: Barnet Hospital was forced to declare an internal emergency and turn ambulances away as its A&E department struggled to cope with the huge volume of patients Barnet Hospital was forced to declare an internal emergency and turn ambulances away as its A&E department struggled to cope with the huge volume of patients

A packed A&E department was forced to turn away ambulances and declare a state of emergency just weeks after the controversial closure of a neighbouring emergency ward.

NHS bosses had insisted Barnet Hospital was well prepared to cope with the influx of patients following the cost-cutting closure of Chase Farm’s own A&E department on December 9.

But less than seven weeks later, Barnet Hospital was left crippled by the huge number of walk-in patients and ambulance arrivals on Friday, January 31, a letter leaked to the Times Series has now revealed.

At the height of the crisis, ambulances were left queuing outside the hospital and, by 2.30pm, 19 had been left unable to transfer their patients because of the drastic bed shortage.

Internally, a further nine patients could not be moved from their AAU ward to the emergency department, which was forced to seek help from medical departments across the region, including the Royal Free and Whittington Hospitals in central London.

The leaked letter, sent to medical departments across East and North Hertfordshire, urged GPs to avoid referring their patients for hospital treatment until as late as Tuesday to allow hospital staff to cope with the backlog.

The incident, described by one NHS spokesperson as “extremely rare”, has sparked outrage among politicians and campaigners who say they had warned for years about closing Enfield’s biggest A&E department.

Kate Wilkinson, founder of the Save Chase Farm campaign group, said: “It’s putting lives at risk. This has become a very dangerous situation where there are not sufficient front-line services to deal with the demand.

“There needs to be some serious and honest discussions with the decision makers now, who need to admit there is a lack of services.”

The trust in charge of the two hospitals replaced Chase Farm’s A&E department with a 12-hour-a-day urgent care centre in December as it centralised services at Barnet and North Middlesex.

Today it blamed the state of emergency on “winter pressures” but politicians were quick to point the finger firmly at the A&E closure.

Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North, said: “It is yet another example of what we warned would happen as a result of putting too much pressure on Barnet and North Middlesex.

“We were told repeatedly that they would be able to cope but this shows that they clearly cannot.”

The winter pressures argument was also dismissed by Ms Wilkinson, who said the trust has not been faced with anything close to the challenges of previous years.

She said: “We have not had long spells of freezing temperatures or a superbug, as we did last year. Imagine if we had, what kind of state would we be in now?”

Tory Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers, meanwhile, described the situation as "worrying".

Campaign group the North East London Council of Action organised numerous protest marches in the lead up to the downgrade of Chase Farm.

Group leader Bill Rogers described the closure as “incompetence” and said the state of emergency was “the logical result”. The group is already planning a new protest on March 8.

He said: “When you close an A&E you immediately put pressure on surrounding departments. The scenario of people waiting hours to be treated is has become increasingly common.”

A spokesman from Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Barnet and Chase Farm Trust experienced high numbers of attendances and ambulance arrivals to A&E on January 31.

“As a consequence of this, and in line with the NHS England (London) policy, Barnet Hospital declared an internal emergency and received support from local hospitals and non-urgent ambulances were diverted. 

“Quality of care and safety of our patients is paramount. Consultants and senior managers were on site throughout to ensure the trust responded to this increase in activity. 

“There was a full range of services available for patients with additional staff on duty.”

Comments (12)

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1:03pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Jon10 says...

Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been.

People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.
Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been. People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice. Jon10

1:43pm Tue 11 Feb 14

dons24pelliparclose says...

It is interesting to consider:
....why this Serious Incident was not reported as an Urgent Item to the Members of the Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee on 7th February
.... Looking at the reports at NHS England Winter Pressures report for 30th January to 5th February it was reported that for 31st Jan to 02 February BCF had 79 ambulance waits more than 30 minutes and TWO A & E diverts but no 12 hour trolley waits. Comparatively Lewisham had 37 ambulances queued more than 30 minutes and 11 12-hour trolley waits
It is interesting to consider: ....why this Serious Incident was not reported as an Urgent Item to the Members of the Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee on 7th February .... Looking at the reports at NHS England Winter Pressures report for 30th January to 5th February it was reported that for 31st Jan to 02 February BCF had 79 ambulance waits more than 30 minutes and TWO A & E diverts but no 12 hour trolley waits. Comparatively Lewisham had 37 ambulances queued more than 30 minutes and 11 12-hour trolley waits dons24pelliparclose

2:16pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Tory MP Nick de Bois fails to mention his leader David Cameron has totally reneged on his pre-election promises to protect services at Chase Farm. Yet another Condem betrayal, and one that puts lives at risk.
Tory MP Nick de Bois fails to mention his leader David Cameron has totally reneged on his pre-election promises to protect services at Chase Farm. Yet another Condem betrayal, and one that puts lives at risk. Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog

3:42pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Mr Reasonable says...

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog wrote:
Tory MP Nick de Bois fails to mention his leader David Cameron has totally reneged on his pre-election promises to protect services at Chase Farm. Yet another Condem betrayal, and one that puts lives at risk.
And Theresa Villiers is a member of the Government who have pushed this through, not just a backbencher, so saying this is "worrying" is simply not good enough . Let no one be in any doubt. This government are rapidly decimating the NHS and this is the evidence.
[quote][p][bold]Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog[/bold] wrote: Tory MP Nick de Bois fails to mention his leader David Cameron has totally reneged on his pre-election promises to protect services at Chase Farm. Yet another Condem betrayal, and one that puts lives at risk.[/p][/quote]And Theresa Villiers is a member of the Government who have pushed this through, not just a backbencher, so saying this is "worrying" is simply not good enough . Let no one be in any doubt. This government are rapidly decimating the NHS and this is the evidence. Mr Reasonable

6:40pm Tue 11 Feb 14

harvey_uk says...

Hope they have a priority system to who is deemed worthy for free healthcare. Top of the list should be British citizens who paid for the system, non-British passport holders lowest priority and emergency care only and maternity care should be chargeable for non-British passport holders.
Hope they have a priority system to who is deemed worthy for free healthcare. Top of the list should be British citizens who paid for the system, non-British passport holders lowest priority and emergency care only and maternity care should be chargeable for non-British passport holders. harvey_uk

5:23pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Andrew Haynes says...

To anyone familiar with Barnet's A&E department, this fiasco is of no surprise at all.

I am not criticising Barnet's A&E staff. Despite the obvious pressures they face, they have always been superb when members of my own family have needed their services. But it is undeniable that Barnet Hospital just does not have enough beds, examination cubicles and other facilities to cope with all the extra patients who would previously have gone to Chase Farm. In fact, Barnet A&E had to make the most of inadequate facilities even before Chase Farm A&E was axed.

And it is ludicrous for a Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust spokesperson to blame this allegedly "extremely rare" debacle on “winter pressures”. This winter has so far been mild, and therefore "winter pressures" have presumably been slight. But what will happen in a winter with genuinely severe pressures -- accidents caused by icy roads and pavements, elderly patients suffering from hypothermia, maybe a major influenza epidemic?

When my family first moved to north London, full A&E services were available at Barnet, Chase Farm and Edgware. Now, despite a rapidly growing population, we only have Barnet. What progress!

I don't blame the NHS. I blame the Tories. It was during Maggie Thatcher's rule that Edgware Hospital was downgraded (purely for political reasons), and it is under David Cameron's premiership that Chase Farm has been forced to close its A&E department. But now even some local Tory MPs -- such as Nick de Bois and Theresa Villers, both quoted in the article -- seem to be concerned about their own party's catastrophic healthcare policies.

Instead of making limp excuses about "winter pressures", Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust should be attacking the current Government for failing to provide adequate funding to support a comprehensive A&E service across north London.
To anyone familiar with Barnet's A&E department, this fiasco is of no surprise at all. I am not criticising Barnet's A&E staff. Despite the obvious pressures they face, they have always been superb when members of my own family have needed their services. But it is undeniable that Barnet Hospital just does not have enough beds, examination cubicles and other facilities to cope with all the extra patients who would previously have gone to Chase Farm. In fact, Barnet A&E had to make the most of inadequate facilities even before Chase Farm A&E was axed. And it is ludicrous for a Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust spokesperson to blame this allegedly "extremely rare" debacle on “winter pressures”. This winter has so far been mild, and therefore "winter pressures" have presumably been slight. But what will happen in a winter with genuinely severe pressures -- accidents caused by icy roads and pavements, elderly patients suffering from hypothermia, maybe a major influenza epidemic? When my family first moved to north London, full A&E services were available at Barnet, Chase Farm and Edgware. Now, despite a rapidly growing population, we only have Barnet. What progress! I don't blame the NHS. I blame the Tories. It was during Maggie Thatcher's rule that Edgware Hospital was downgraded (purely for political reasons), and it is under David Cameron's premiership that Chase Farm has been forced to close its A&E department. But now even some local Tory MPs -- such as Nick de Bois and Theresa Villers, both quoted in the article -- seem to be concerned about their own party's catastrophic healthcare policies. Instead of making limp excuses about "winter pressures", Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust should be attacking the current Government for failing to provide adequate funding to support a comprehensive A&E service across north London. Andrew Haynes

9:55am Fri 14 Feb 14

long67 says...

What i would like to know is how many Hospitals have been Closed or run down in recent years. And what party was in power at that time.
What i would like to know is how many Hospitals have been Closed or run down in recent years. And what party was in power at that time. long67

11:06am Fri 14 Feb 14

Edgar de Jarnac says...

Jon10 wrote:
Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been.

People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.
At least, the A&E triage process means that genuine emergencies are dealt with as promptly as possible while people who should have gone to a minor illness walk-in centre or booked a GP appointment can be left to wait for hours.
[quote][p][bold]Jon10[/bold] wrote: Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been. People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.[/p][/quote]At least, the A&E triage process means that genuine emergencies are dealt with as promptly as possible while people who should have gone to a minor illness walk-in centre or booked a GP appointment can be left to wait for hours. Edgar de Jarnac

3:36pm Fri 14 Feb 14

Mr Reasonable says...

Edgar de Jarnac wrote:
Jon10 wrote:
Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been.

People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.
At least, the A&E triage process means that genuine emergencies are dealt with as promptly as possible while people who should have gone to a minor illness walk-in centre or booked a GP appointment can be left to wait for hours.
I think you are missing the point here Edgar, if someone is in an ambulance they are already a serious case - the ambulance service will not take them if they are not in need of hospitalisation - therefore if the report is correct and 19 ambulances were directed to other hospitals that is extremely serious. By declaring an emergency it shows the system had collapsed and that has nothing to do with whether walk in cases should or should not have been there.
[quote][p][bold]Edgar de Jarnac[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Jon10[/bold] wrote: Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been. People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.[/p][/quote]At least, the A&E triage process means that genuine emergencies are dealt with as promptly as possible while people who should have gone to a minor illness walk-in centre or booked a GP appointment can be left to wait for hours.[/p][/quote]I think you are missing the point here Edgar, if someone is in an ambulance they are already a serious case - the ambulance service will not take them if they are not in need of hospitalisation - therefore if the report is correct and 19 ambulances were directed to other hospitals that is extremely serious. By declaring an emergency it shows the system had collapsed and that has nothing to do with whether walk in cases should or should not have been there. Mr Reasonable

9:28am Sat 15 Feb 14

Barnet Parker says...

I recall telling a friend who lived in Bushey about the closure of Edgware General's A&E back in the 90s. My friend expressed surprise as the reason given for closing the A&E at Stanmore Orthopaedic was because there was one at Edgware. Those who don't learn from history are condemned to diminishing returns.
I recall telling a friend who lived in Bushey about the closure of Edgware General's A&E back in the 90s. My friend expressed surprise as the reason given for closing the A&E at Stanmore Orthopaedic was because there was one at Edgware. Those who don't learn from history are condemned to diminishing returns. Barnet Parker

12:14pm Sat 15 Feb 14

Edgar de Jarnac says...

Mr Reasonable wrote:
Edgar de Jarnac wrote:
Jon10 wrote:
Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been.

People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.
At least, the A&E triage process means that genuine emergencies are dealt with as promptly as possible while people who should have gone to a minor illness walk-in centre or booked a GP appointment can be left to wait for hours.
I think you are missing the point here Edgar, if someone is in an ambulance they are already a serious case - the ambulance service will not take them if they are not in need of hospitalisation - therefore if the report is correct and 19 ambulances were directed to other hospitals that is extremely serious. By declaring an emergency it shows the system had collapsed and that has nothing to do with whether walk in cases should or should not have been there.
Mr Reasonable, do be reasonable! I have not missed the point: you are choosing to miss my point.

Of course anyone arriving in an ambulance is already a serious case. And of course there is a worrying problem when ambulances have to be turned away. That is so blindingly obvious that it hardly needs a comment from me.

As my post surely made clear, I was merely responding to Jon10’s reasonable comments about people who take themselves to A&E when they should be using other healthcare services. Luckily, the triage system keeps these idiots hanging around in the waiting room while more urgent cases are dealt with as promptly as possible.
[quote][p][bold]Mr Reasonable[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Edgar de Jarnac[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Jon10[/bold] wrote: Although it might have been a spike of blue-light emergencies, many people were no doubt at the A&E even though they shouldn't have been. People treat A&Es as an more convenient version of a GP practice.[/p][/quote]At least, the A&E triage process means that genuine emergencies are dealt with as promptly as possible while people who should have gone to a minor illness walk-in centre or booked a GP appointment can be left to wait for hours.[/p][/quote]I think you are missing the point here Edgar, if someone is in an ambulance they are already a serious case - the ambulance service will not take them if they are not in need of hospitalisation - therefore if the report is correct and 19 ambulances were directed to other hospitals that is extremely serious. By declaring an emergency it shows the system had collapsed and that has nothing to do with whether walk in cases should or should not have been there.[/p][/quote]Mr Reasonable, do be reasonable! I have not missed the point: you are choosing to miss my point. Of course anyone arriving in an ambulance is already a serious case. And of course there is a worrying problem when ambulances have to be turned away. That is so blindingly obvious that it hardly needs a comment from me. As my post surely made clear, I was merely responding to Jon10’s reasonable comments about people who take themselves to A&E when they should be using other healthcare services. Luckily, the triage system keeps these idiots hanging around in the waiting room while more urgent cases are dealt with as promptly as possible. Edgar de Jarnac

12:38am Tue 18 Feb 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Mrs Angry refers to David Cameron’s broken promises. What about Labour’s broken promise to save Edgware General, conveniently forgotten once Tony B Liar came to power? The stench of hypocrisy is nauseating.
Mrs Angry refers to David Cameron’s broken promises. What about Labour’s broken promise to save Edgware General, conveniently forgotten once Tony B Liar came to power? The stench of hypocrisy is nauseating. Don't Call Me Dave

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