A HOSPITAL emergency department was thrown into chaos when a late-night power cut left staff scrabbling around with torches.

Patients were told a generator had failed to kick in at Southampton General Hospital and many were asked to go home before they had been treated.

The drama unfolded at midnight on Saturday night when the busy department was full of people waiting for emergency treatment.

Beekeeper John Quinn, from Hamble, was among those waiting for treatment after suffering an allergic reaction to a number of bee stings to his hand earlier in the evening.

He said he and his wife, Sheena, drove to A&E at around 10pm.

“After a couple of hours the lights went out and the department was full of the usual selection of emergencies and drunks.

“Staff were telling people to go home unless they thought their problem was a genuine emergency or urgent. We were told to call back in the morning.

Staff told us the generator had failed to work and that maintenance people were working on it.”

Mr Quinn, 63, had had blood tests to assess the extent of his allergic reaction but did not know the results when he went home.

“I should have had a prescription but I didn’t get it” he added.

“People were being sent home without being assessed.”

Derek Wilson was at A&E with a family member who had been taken in by ambulance due to a severe stomach bug.

He said: “Doctors and nurses were frantically moving patients to other parts of the hospital which weren’t affected by the power cut using torches.

“We needed to get some water because it was ridiculously hot in there but we couldn’t get any.”

He said they went home at 2am and that he had to obtain medication the following morning.

In November a power cut caused chaos at Southampton General and Princess Anne Hospitals. A high-voltage underground cable caused a transformer to overheat with 99 operations cancelled, 26 ambulances diverted to other hospitals and outpatient appointments cancelled.

A spokesperson for University Hospital Southampton said: “Due to a temporary loss of mains power overnight, some areas of the hospital lost lighting and clinical systems were affected for a period of time until the situation was resolved fully.

“Our additional power systems kicked in as expected with all critical clinical systems working to maintain patient safety at all times.

“Theatres and all critical care areas remained safe and open throughout and we remained open to walk in patients in the emergency department but asked our partners to accept diverts for ambulance transfers.

“This allowed us to focus on keeping those in hospital and newly-presenting patients with acute illness or injury safe.

“Our staff were calm, resourceful and efficient and well supported by our on call estates team.

“We are also grateful to our partners who absorbed additional pressure during this time.”