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UHMBT de-escalates to OPEL Level 3

11 March 2022

  • Quality and safety

On Monday 7 March 2022, the Trust declared that it was escalating to Operations Pressure Escalation Levels (OPEL) Level 4 - the highest level of internal escalation in the NHS.

The decision to escalate was made due to rising attendances at our Emergency Departments (EDs); ongoing challenges in discharging patients who are well enough to leave hospital; difficult staffing levels in some areas; and an increase in patients with COVID-19.

Teams have been working immensely hard - both inside out hospitals and out in the community with our partners - and some of the actions taken included:  

  • Setting up twice daily calls with our Care Group and corporate leads and partners, including Cumbria and Lancashire County Councils, North West Ambulance Service and Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group to review current pressures and agree actions   
  • Working with social care colleagues to expedite the safe discharge of those patients who are well enough to be discharged from hospital but cannot for a variety of reasons (Not Meeting the Criteria to Reside)  
  • Reviewing non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments to see whether delaying appointments would free up beds and/or colleagues who could support clinical teams. Due to the fact that cancelling any activity would not be of benefit for the Trust or the patient, it was not taken forward   
  • Agreeing the extension of the opening hours of the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) in Morecambe to accommodate more patients with minor illnesses or injuries. The potential to do the same at our UTC at WGH was also explored   
  • Agreeing extended medical cover in the ED at FGH until later in the evening   
  • Requesting mutual aid from our system partners to ask if they could accommodate diverted emergency patients for a period of time. Unfortunately, due to pressures across the system, this hasn’t been possible   
  • Standing down all non-essential activity to allow senior teams to support ward colleagues and help unblock any delays in discharge   
  • Facilitating a special bulletin to primary care colleagues to make them aware of the escalation and request they redirect all patients with non-life threatening illnesses or injuries to other services rather that the EDs   

Both of our main hospitals are now in an improved position with less patients waiting in our Emergency Departments, a small number of beds available on both sites, and no immediate patient safety concerns. Therefore, the Trust has taken the decision to formally de-escalate to OPEL Level 3.  

Whilst stepping down the incident is positive news and a real testament to colleagues and our partners; our services do remain under extreme pressure. Therefore, we will continue to work closely with our partners to monitor the pressures and take appropriate action where needed. 

The public can continue to help us manage these periods of demand by ensuring they are seeking help from the most appropriate health services, and only attending A&E for serious accidents and emergencies. If you are unwell, visit NHS 111 online for 24/7 advice about the most appropriate care for your needs. 

Aaron Cummins 
Chief Executive