HOSPITALS are ‘running out of vital equipment’ while at the same time GP surgeries are running out of flu vaccines, it emerged yesterday as the NHS winter crisis escalates.
Ventilators, pumps to administer drugs, oxygen cylinders, pressure-relieving mattresses and pillows are running low and of course there is a severe lack of one of the most important hospital necessities: beds. Patients have been left to lie on mattresses and trolleys in corridors as they wait for beds to become free in a number of hospitals.
Southmead hospital in Bristol has faced shortages of syringe drivers used to give drugs to dying patients, drip stands, infusion pumps to ensure patients get the right doses of medication, oxygen cylinders, and pressure-relieving mattresses that help to prevent bed sores.
One nurse from Southmead Hospital described pillows as ‘gold dust’. ‘The last few weeks have been ridiculous. At weekends, there is often a waiting list to get a pressure-relieving mattress,’ one nurse said.
‘Nurses who bring patients up to the wards are taking pillows from under patients’ heads because we literally don’t have a pillow to give them back. Pillows are like gold dust.’ Staff at Mid Cheshire hospital trust, which runs hospitals in Crewe and Northwich, also said that they faced shortages of drug trolleys, drip stands and infusion pumps.
Dr Nick Scriven, the president of the Society for Acute Medicine said: ‘I’ve heard from several colleagues in acute medicine that their trusts have significant shortages of essential equipment such as bilevel positive airway (BiPaP) ventilators, which are needed in this surge of respiratory illness, and IT kit – computers – on extra-capacity wards needed to complete patient records and proceed with giving care.’
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘The idea that some hospitals are dangerously low, or are even running out of vital medical equipment like ventilators and oxygen cylinders would horrify the public.’
Meanwhile, figures show that one in 10 GP practices have already run out of flu vaccines, with a further 20% running low. One GP said their practice ‘used 100 more than last year’ and was having to ‘borrow from other practices’, while another said their practice had ‘used 95% and have sold 30 yesterday to a local surgery who had run out’.