Huge queue of '25 ambulances' seen outside hospital A&E as NHS prepares for winter of increased pressure
Queues of ambulances have been spotted outside a Greater Manchester hospital this week - as the NHS gears up for a winter of increased pressure.
According to witnesses, 'up to 25' were lined up during a night of 'long waits' at Royal Oldham Hospital Accident and Emergency department on Monday (October 4).
Hospitals, including those in Greater Manchester, have seen 'extreme pressure' throughout this year due to a combination of factors.
Just before 9pm on Monday night, one man attending A&E at the Royal Oldham said: "Long waits at the Royal Oldham Hospital with 25 ambulances waiting outside.
"Why? [It's] a joke."
Manchester Evening News asked the trust responsible for the hospital, the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (NCA), about the reasons for the queues.
The scenes stemmed from a 'busy night' in A&E, according to a spokesperson for the NCA.
But the trust denied that the hospital was on black alert at the time - the most severe of the Operations Pressure Escalation Levels (OPEL).
This is method used by the NHS to measure stress, demand and pressure.
On Thursday, the NCA issued a statement addressing the images, saying that the number of people who can be seen 'safely' inside the emergency department are limited due to Covid-19.
However, the trust added that while ambulances were seen queuing, patients were 'not being treated inside' the vehicles parked up.
"Patient safety is our first priority and we have robust plans in place to respond if and when pressure increases on our services, prioritising patients in terms of clinical urgency," said a spokesperson for the Royal Oldham Hospital.
"Our staff work incredibly hard to see patients quickly, whilst working within national guidelines around Covid-19 infection prevention and control, which limit the numbers we can see safely in the emergency department at any one time.”
The trust also claims there were not '25 ambulances' queueing outside the hospital at any one time on Monday night, as the eyewitness says.
But, the organisation would not share its figure for the exact number of vehicles waiting outside the emergency department at the peak of the evening.
In response to the scenes from Monday night, North West Ambulance Service says it 'remains extremely busy'.
A spokesperson said, “The ambulance service remains extremely busy.
"The public can help by only ringing 999 in a life-threatening emergency. For less urgent medical advice, they can speak to their GP, pharmacist or visit 111.nhs.uk ”.
Greater Manchester health chiefs are now warning that the most difficult season for the NHS is on its way.
Sarah Price, interim chief officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “NHS staff across all of Greater Manchester are working incredibly hard to provide the best care and support possible to local residents.
"However, there is no doubt that the picture remains challenging, and we are stretched in terms of demand for services.
“The colder months are always a testing time for the NHS, as seasonal illnesses, such as respiratory viruses, mean more people need help. Inevitably, pressures will increase while we are still dealing with Covid-19 and the consequences of the pandemic.
“The NHS will always be on hand for those that need care and treatment. We can all help make sure that those with the most urgent needs are seen quickest by thinking about how we seek care and treatment.
"If you are unsure, call 111 or use the online service any time of day to get urgent health advice.”