On the 13th of January, it was reported that 60 hospital trusts in England were forced to declare themselves on “black alert” (also known as OPEL 3 or OPEL 4) after becoming so overcrowded and pushed to breaking point that they could no longer guarantee patient safety in the first two weeks of the new year.

Some hospitals closed their doors to new patients in order to get through the backlog of patients already waiting for beds and treatment. This led a British Red Cross representative to describe the situation as a “humanitarian crisis”, a claim the Government have rejected.

Regardless of who is in the right there, it has been well publicised that the National Health Service in this country is struggling. Lack of funding, staffing problems and higher patient intake combined with the ongoing social care issues have seen an increase in patient waiting times and forced some hospital staff to work longer hours to cope with the demand. However, these longer working hours and waiting times have meant that patient safety is often not up to the standards it should be.

Unfortunately, the occurrence of medical negligence is on the increase as a result which saw the NHS pay out more than £1.4bn in 2015-16, an increase of more than 140% from 2008. With the recent black alerts over patient safety, that figure will almost certainly rise again by the end of 2017.

So what is the answer? The truth is, there is no easy solution to reduce pressures on the NHS, but health officials have released advice to people who think they may need to visit hospitals or A&E departments in the coming weeks. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned patients to stay away from A&E departments unless absolutely necessary and suggested considering self treatment, pharmacists and GPs as potential alternatives although the following advice should be noted:

If someone is obviously in danger – for example, they are experiencing chest pain, blacking out, bleeding, choking or the early symptoms of a stroke – they should be taken to hospital as quickly as possible.

Serious allergic reactions, severe burns, difficulty breathing or severe abdominal pain down one side are also all reasons to seek treatment at A&E and call an ambulance if necessary. – Forster, Katie. “When to go to A&E: Patients urged to consider other options amid NHS hospital crisis.” Independent: 10 January 2017

At Farleys Solicitors, we have a team of medical negligence solicitors who can deal with your claim and provide advice on how to move forward at what can be a difficult time for you and your loved ones. To speak to an experienced professional for sensitive and confidential advice, call 0845 287 0939 or complete our online contact form.