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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 12:08 GMT
Hospital copes with 'unprecedented demand'

Ambulance services are expected to be at full stretch

The nearest hospital to London's millennium celebrations dealt with a record number of casualties during the night.

One man is believed to have died after falling into the River Thames. Police have recovered a body at Lambeth Bridge.

Five others were rescued from the river. One man sustained serious leg injuries after becoming trapped between the bridge and pier at Westminster.

Accident and Emergency
The accident and emergency department at St Thomas' hospital, on the south bank of the Thames, was faced with almost 300 injured or ill patients.

Last New Year's Eve it handled less than 100 cases.

Our staff have done exceptionally well
St Thomas' Hospital spokesman
However, away from St Thomas', other hospitals and ambulance services appear to have coped well with the increased demand.

Into 2000
Most of the health problems were drink-related, with a "recovery room" for the intoxicated at St Thomas' full to capacity all night.

A spokesman for the hospital said: "Our staff have done exceptionally well - all seriously-ill people who needed urgent treatment were seen straight away."

Injuries at St Thomas'
Alcohol poisoning
Broken bones
Stab wounds
She revealed that security guards had to be posted to stop non-injured revellers from forcing their way in to the hospital to use the toilets and canteen.

Most of London's major hospitals, however, reported that demand for emergency treatment was not as high as expected.

A spokesman for the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel said: "We're not massively busy - mostly drink-related injuries."

At the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, there was a similar situation.

"It's a bit like a normal New Year's Eve. We're coping fine at the moment," said its spokesman.

Control room staff are ready for the rush
And at St Mary's at Paddington, the Millennium celebrations had generated no more patients than on an "average Friday night", according to staff.

Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary reported 80 casualties since 2000GMT, despite being the only hospital covering injuries at Scotland's biggest celebrations.

A spokesman said: "It could still catch up, particularly on New Year's Day as people wake up and realise they have injuries."

At the University Hospital in Cardiff, A&E staff were reporting no problems, although demand was now beginning to increase.

Ambulance pressure

The London Ambulance Service responded to 2,500 calls. Injuries were mostly alcohol-related with a handful of crush injuries.

But pressures on ambulance services appear to have been greater outside the London area.

Pressure on ambulances: calls between midnight and 0400GMT
Greater Manchester 871
Merseyside 491
Greater London 2,500 between midnight and 0545 GMT
Lancashire 434
Beds and Herts 241
Crews were under particular pressure in big cities like Greater Manchester and Newcastle.

Nottinghamshire's 32 ambulances were so busy that at one point police and fire officers had to deal with a casualty until a crew became available.

Staffordshire Ambulance Service received more than 150 calls in the first two hours of the new year - but fewer than a third of these resulted in a patient being taken to hospital.

Some people refused treatment when it was offered, others received first aid but declined to be taken to hospital.

Some calls were to people who'd collapsed - but paramedics were unable to find a patient when they arrived.

Despite reports of major shortages of intensive care beds, at 1800 on New Year's Eve there were reported to be 55 beds free nationwide, and 16 in London.

The normal summer level in London is 30.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Demand has been high - but the NHS has coped."

Most hospitals and ambulance services have formulated one-off emergency plans to cope with the celebrations - and have cancelled staff leave.

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See also:
07 Dec 99 |  Health
Ambulance services `to struggle at millennium'
25 Dec 99 |  Health
Bizarre tales from A&E
27 Dec 99 |  Background Briefings
Millennium health emergency

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