The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has responded to claims by Labour leader Ed Miliband that the reduced access at Lynn’s A&E department is proof the NHS is on its knees.
Chief executive officer Dorothy Hosein said: “Statements have been made recently regarding the accident and emergency service provided by The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn. The hospital has never turned emergency patients away and has certainly never closed the accident and emergency department.
“There were two recent situations when the hospital experienced extremely high demand and had incidents of Norovirus. In line with national practice on both occasions an alert was triggered and infection control measures were put in place. Local GPs and media were contacted to advise them of the situation.”
Mr Miliband had referred to Scunthorpe, Lynn and Middlesbrough on Prime Minister’s question time as being among those A&E departments where patients had been told not to turn up unless it was essential.
The response came after Healthwatch Norfolk suggested service providers reviewed and improved information on the most appropriate services to access.
It also suggested a feasibility study over the provision of a Primary Care Centre – a centre for people who need urgent care but not necessarily access to hospital specialists.
The report also said a review was needed for out-of-hours services that are currently available.
Mrs Hosein added: “At such times, to contain spread of infection it is normal practice for acute Trusts to ensure patients are aware that if they have suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea in the previous 72 hours or suffered minor injuries or illness they should in the first instance contact their local pharmacy, GP or the NHS 111 telephone helpline and avoid visiting the hospital if possible.
“The accident and emergency department remained open throughout and all patients were seen.
“The hospital is also supporting a local public awareness campaign, jointly developed with the CCG and local heath partners called ‘Choose me, not A and E’ which looks to raises awareness of the support that local pharmacists, GPs and NHS 111 telephone helpline can offer as an alternative to a hospital visit, for minor injuries and illness.”
The Healthwatch Norfolk report was the conclusion of a study where researchers spoke to 556 patients.