Hospitals in Croydon and Lewisham have been forced to admit adult patients needing surgery to wards usually used for children because of a lack of beds.
Lewisham Hospital is the latest to revise its admission arrangements, facing an influx of patients. Croydon University Hospital introduced similar measures to cope with large numbers of emergency patients last week.
A spokesperson for Croydon University Hospital said: “Like all hospitals, we are currently extremely busy. We have opened extra surgical beds on one of our children’s wards to care for our younger patients. This has allowed us to temporarily switch what would routinely be a children’s surgical ward to treat only adult patients before and after their operations.”
The hospital has been able to accommodate an extra 12 adults needing surgery . Campaigners say that while hospitals do routinely open up extra beds at busy times of year, moving people to children’s wards is seen as highly unusual and a sign of just how much strain London’s hospitals are under.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described demand for the services as “unprecedented”. He added: “The Tuesday after Christmas was the busiest day in the history of the NHS and some hospitals are reporting that A&E attendances are up to 30% higher compared to last year.”
He denied British Red Cross claims of a “humanitarian crisis” however. “It is clear we need to have an honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments.“
Dr Louise Irvine, a local Lewisham GP and chair of Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, has been more critical of the government’s measures. She said:”We’ve seen trolley wait times increase year on year. Numbers of beds in the NHS has been cut even though we know that there’s great need. Social care budgets have been slashed, which means that many elderly people cannot get the care they need so they cannot be discharged from hospital. These are all things that have been known about and the government has completely failed to address it.“
In 2013, a proposal by the Health Secretary to close Lewisham Hospital was rejected by the High Court.
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