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When hospitals declare a major incident due to pressure on their A&E department, it is one way of guaranteeing news coverage, such is the interest in the NHS this winter and in the run-up to the General Election.

But it can also be the best thing that can happen for the hospital’s staff and its patients, according to one London doctor whose hospital was the first to go public with confirmation it had been forced to declare a “major internal incident”.

Dr Kathryn Channing, clinical lead for emergency medicine at Croydon hospital, said it had been “like hitting the reset button” and meant the department was clear of patients within six hours as it focused the entire hospital’s efforts on dealing with the delayed patients.

Croydon on January 6 became the first London trust to publicly declare a “major internal incident” due to its inability to find beds on wards for A&E patients requiring admission to hospital.

See here for the Evening Standard story at the time: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/croydon-hospital-hospital-declares-major-internal-incident-over-ae-waiting-times-9960436.html

“I think it’s probably the best decision the trust has ever made,” she told me after a London Assembly meeting on A&E pressures. “Within six hours we were empty and our throughput of patients since then has been good. We have been performing far, far better.”

On one day patients were being held on trolleys in corridors as trust managers tried to find them beds, she told the assembly. “We had up to 35 patients requiring admission to hospital in our department – a department that has 33 trolley spaces to see patients,” Dr Channing said.

“As emergency department consultants, we feel it on the front line. A lot of the pressure that is attributed to ‘A&E in meltdown’ isn’t the emergency department at all.”

See here for the Evening Standard’s coverage of locum doctors in A&Es and the cost to the NHS here: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/locum-doctors-9979325.html

Croydon is seeking funding for a new £17.5 million A&E department to increase capacity by a third. It currently has vacancies for middle-grade emergency doctors and for two emergency department consultants. See here for more on the new A&E: http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/11102377.Croydon_s_A_E_set_for___17_5m_rebuild/?ref=mr

Barking, Havering and Redbridge trust, which runs Queen’s hospital in Romford and King George in Ilford, is the first known to have declared a major internal alert this winter.

Board papers: How BHRUT revealed it had declared a major internal incident

Board papers: How BHRUT revealed it had declared a major internal incident

However, the move – on December 16 – only came to light last week after being mentioned in trust board papers. At least one other London trust is understood to have declared such an incident but not gone public to “save face”.