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Surge in demand for emergency services in Norfolk and Waveney amid wintry weather

PUBLISHED: 08:31 28 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:31 28 December 2017

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews saw demand for their services soar yesterday as flooding, snow, ice and high winds hit the region.

Ambulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYAmbulances queuing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital A&E department. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police received 87 weather-related calls between 7am and midday yesterday, Wednesday, compared to 17 last year.

And Norfolk Fire and Rescue service were called to floods, fallen power line, and buildings struggling in the conditions.

East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) declared a surge black - where demand is so high the only next step is to declare a major incident.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) ambulances were queuing at accident and emergency as EEAST said it had been the busiest Christmas ever for its crews.

An X1 bus stranded in flood water under the A47 at Scarning.  Picture: Michael ProtheroeAn X1 bus stranded in flood water under the A47 at Scarning. Picture: Michael Protheroe

Kevin Brown, director of service delivery at EEAST, said: “I would like to thank all of our staff and volunteers for their hard work over the Christmas period.

“It has been an incredibly busy one for the trust with high levels of demand, particularly on Boxing Day where we had one of our busiest days of the year with more than 4,200 calls.

“Today (Wednesday) is predicted to be another busy day, which has been compounded by snowy conditions in some parts of the region.

“The health system is experiencing this spike with us, and every trust is doing everything possible to work together for good patient outcomes.

The bus in the flooded underpass on the Dereham Road at Scarning, under the A47 bridge. Picture: Olly ButinskiThe bus in the flooded underpass on the Dereham Road at Scarning, under the A47 bridge. Picture: Olly Butinski

“We will always prioritise patients with life-threatening conditions above other calls and calling 999 should be for these sorts of emergencies only.”

A spokesperson for the NNUH said: “We have experienced a busy weekend with a number of very sick patients needing our care and A&E attendances in the region of 350 a day. We are working closely with the ambulance trust and other services to manage the high demand we are experiencing during this winter period.

“As a trust, our approach is to have year-round resilience and throughout the year we have been working to improve efficiencies, reduce delays and place downward pressure on emergency admissions by developing enhanced ambulatory facilities.

“We have effective plans in place to manage peaks in demand throughout the year and with winter approaching our teams are working hard to ensure that excellent patient care is maintained.”

The B1146 Dereham Road at Scarning under the A47 bridge. Picture: Josh SpoonerThe B1146 Dereham Road at Scarning under the A47 bridge. Picture: Josh Spooner

At the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston chief operating officer Graham Wilde said the Christmas weekend was “busy but not exceptional”.

He added: “We have been full throughout the Christmas period, with large numbers of people attending particularly on Sunday evening – Christmas Eve – and bed occupancy rates around 100pc.

“A lot of preparation had gone in ahead of the weekend, with the Paget team liaising closely with partner agencies and providers including social services, to try to ensure patient flow through the hospital. Staff have been working extremely hard to admit and safely discharge patients in as timely manner as possible.”

While at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, it is understood A&E was holding up to pressure.

Emergency services are at Gapton Hall retail park which has been closed on the grounds of public safety. Photo: Liz CoatesEmergency services are at Gapton Hall retail park which has been closed on the grounds of public safety. Photo: Liz Coates

People are being urged to use NHS Choices website, pharmacies, NHS 111, walk-in centres and GP surgeries if they require medical advice.

Bus stuck under bridge

An X1 bus got stuck under the A47 bridge at Scarning yesterday.

The road was flooded under the bridge and the First Group, which runs the X1 from Dereham to Norwich and King’s Lynn, cancelled buses through to Wendling and Scarning.

Norfolk Police said officers went to the scene to tell motorists to take an alternative route. The bus was recovered soon after 10am.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman added: “We have set up temporary warning signs to alert road users while there is flooding at this spot, which is due to the heavy rain.

“Like our colleagues at Norfolk Constabulary we advise that people find an alternative route and drive according to conditions during this current spell of bad weather.”

Flooding also hit the New Look store in Dereham, which had to close, but was hoping to open again later in the day,

Retail park evacuated

A busy retail park was shut down and evacuated after winds ripped metal sheeting from an empty unit.

Police and fire crews took the decision to close Gapton Hall retail park in Great Yarmouth evacuating hundreds of shoppers and sealing off the area.

It comes after metal sheeting on the front of two empty units lashed by rain and strong winds appeared to be “peeling off like toilet paper.”

Simon Mason, station manager at Yarmouth fire station said he and his crew had gone shop to shop advising them of the danger and what they should do.

He added: “We cannot predict if anything will come loose or how much of it could come loose. The danger is that we lose a piece of metal and it goes flying across the car park. We have closed the retail park on the grounds of public safety. There was a considerable amount of people in the area.”

Snow in Suffolk and Essex

Snow and heavy rain brought disruption to parts of Suffolk and north-east Essex yesterday, with homes left without power and flood warnings issued near rivers.

Snow settled in many parts of north-east Essex and in some areas of west Suffolk. And although some areas of Norfolk saw snowfall, conditions were too wet for it to stay.

Snow fall was reported in Norwich, Diss and Swaffham but it was not as heavy as in other parts of the country.

Up to 7cm of snow was recorded to have fallen over Exmoor, South Wales and the Cotswolds overnight, while other areas also saw flurries.

Weather warnings were in place for heavy rain, and overnight on Wednesday a further warning was issued for ice.

It said: “Icy patches are expected to develop on untreated surfaces, pavements and cycle paths and where showers wash off treatment. Some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces may occur.”

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