Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Slips up as booze incidents fall

Royal Berks in the snow
Staff living within three miles of the Royal Berks were asked to walk in

A&E departments are seeing a surge in accidents caused by icy conditions, but alcohol-related incidents are down in some areas as people celebrate at home.

The snow blanketing parts of the UK has left many people unable to drive to work, but there have been tales of NHS staff walking miles to come on shift.

At some hospitals doctors and nurses have stayed overnight and worked double-shifts to keep services running.

Some hospitals cancelled non-urgent operations, but services are resuming.

Across the country there has been a rise in broken bones, sprains and fractures as people fall in slippery conditions. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said such injuries were up by nearly 70% from Saturday to Saturday.

Airedale NHS Trust in West Yorkshire said Sunday had been one of the busiest days of the year so far with 185 such injuries in that day alone.

But even in areas unaccustomed to sudden, heavy snowfall, hospitals say they have coped well.

This is in part down to moving staff from other departments, and asking those off-duty living in the vicinity to come in.

Going the extra mile

In Reading - where there was sudden, heavy snowfall on Monday, A&E arrivals at the Royal Berkshire Hospitals were up nearly 40%.

Doctors and nurses living within three miles of the hospital were asked to walk in to work, and non-emergency operations and some outpatient appointments were cancelled. Services are now virtually back to normal.

The truth is people are less likely to hang around outside drinking when it's like this, so in terms of numbers it really is steady as we go
Mark Prentice
Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust

Basingstoke and North Hampshire NHS Foundation Trust took in more than 100 people stranded on the roads around the hospital on Monday night, and served more than 500 extra breakfasts as a result of the many staff who had stayed in the hospital overnight.

But it was able to carry on with surgery thanks in part to a taxi driver carrying blood supplies from Southampton. He became stranded in the snow as traffic ground to halt but walked the last four miles to carry out his delivery, which also included platelets so leukaemia patients could be treated.

But in fact on Tuesday, A&E admissions were down by about a third on the usual number, while Wednesday has so far seen a steady flow - but nothing out of the ordinary, according to a spokeswoman from the trust.

This is thought in part to be down to people being reluctant to travel for anything outside of a genuine emergency, but in Essex it seems that even while falls are up, alcohol-related admissions are down - leaving the department fully able to cope with new arrivals.

"The truth is people are less likely to hang around outside drinking when it's like this, so in terms of numbers it really is steady as we go," says Mark Prentice of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

"We're probably seeing in A&E something in the region of 180-200 a day, while in the summer when there are barbecues and drinking in the sun it can reach 260."

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