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PATIENTS are being urged to stay away from Oxfordshire’s hospital emergency departments unless it is vital.

Oxford’s John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals and Banbury’s Horton, which have 1,200 beds between them, are all struggling to meet demand.

About 90 extra beds have been opened to deal with growing demand in the past two weeks, as the cold weather causes the number of people needing hospital treatment to soar.

Now Oxfordshire University Hospitals NHS Trust is appealing to people not to go to emergency departments unnecessarily, to allow hospitals to focus on acutely ill patients.

The seriousness of the current bed shortage across the county emerged as the trust apologised to a 72-year-old lung cancer patient left with a leaking post-operation wound, who had to wait 13 hours for a bed.

This followed a four-hour wait the previous day, when he was sent home in severe discomfort from an infected wound because no bed was available at the JR.

The cancer patient and his partner, who did not wish to be named, faced a wait from 9am to 11pm on November 21.

They had already been waiting in accident and emergency from 8pm to midnight the previous evening.

He was suffering from a large lymph leak in his groin, following an operation on his surviving lung.

His partner said: “It had become seriously infected and painful. It required constant dressing.

“At one stage we were taken up to a ward. A man, whom I later found was a team leader, became angry and said we should not have been there as there was no bed.

“After 13 hours we were both tired and very worried. I really felt staff wanted us to go back home but I could not hope to control the leaking.

“He was in a great deal of pain.”

The trust blamed “significant pressure for beds”, which made it difficult to move patients through the system.

Clinical director for emergency services, Dr James Price, said: “We have more admissions due to health problems associated with colder weather, particularly falls and respiratory problems including flu and pneumonia.

“This can lead to exceptionally high demand for beds. Patients arriving in the emergency department are seen as quickly as possible, the majority within four hours.

“We very much regret when patients are not able to be admitted to a ward in a reasonable timescale.”

Dr Price said: “We have launched a new discharge process which focuses on helping some of our elderly and frail patients to leave hospital as soon as they are fit to do so, while ensuring they have ongoing support at home.

“The trust has also expanded its homecare team, which provides support to patients in their own homes for two weeks after their discharge.”

Have you been hit by the hospital bed shortage or extraordinary wait in A&£? Ring the newsdesk on 01865 425500.