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West Suffolk Hospital off 'black' alert

PUBLISHED: 11:15 07 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:19 07 July 2010

Adam Gretton

Officials at a Suffolk hospital today said that services were returning to normal after ambulances were forced to queue outside because there were no beds free for patients.

Officials at a Suffolk hospital today said that services were returning to normal after ambulances were forced to queue outside because there were no beds free for patients.

The West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds was put on 'black alert' on Monday after receiving a sudden influx of accident and emergency cases.

Paramedics were forced to wait outside the Hardwick Lane facility for up to an hour as fewer than eight surgical and medical beds were available.

A spokeswoman for the NHS Trust said the West Suffolk had now been downgraded to “amber” status, which means that between 16 and 21 beds were free.

“The hospital was very busy during late afternoon on Monday and at one point there were ambulances waiting outside for a short time. No patient had been left waiting for more than an hour.

“We assessed the clinical needs of every patient and prioritised those in urgent need. At no point were any patients put at risk and the situation was resolved quickly, with a bed found for every patient who needed one by early evening,” she said.

But the incident has raised fears over the health service's ability to cope over the winter period after the delays at the West Suffolk Hospital.

Richard Spring, MP for west Suffolk, said: “There is real concern out there about the pressures on bed spaces at our hospitals and there's been a decrease in the number of beds as the elderly population is growing. We can only hope and pray that we do not have a winter flu virus this winter as the whole system will then grind to a halt.”

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