Under Tory-leadership: Lewisham hospital in south London became so full on Monday it had run out of beds and in an email to staff it described the situations as “critical” and “not safe”. The hospital had nowhere to put the next patient brought in as an emergency by ambulance, it added:
Under guidance which NHS England issued to NHS acute trusts last October ahead of this winter, hospitals were told to declare what is called a black alert when they have become “unable to deliver comprehensive care [and] there is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised”.
The NHS document outlining the operational pressures escalation levels (Opel) system explains that Opel 4 means that “decisive action must be taken … to recover capacity and ensure patient safety” in the face of “rising system pressure”. That black alert is what most of the 23 trusts have gone onto this week, though some have described it as a “serious internal incident” or in similar terms.