A&E department fails to meet wait time targets
Almost one in five patients who attended Ipswich Hospital's accident and emergency department in September was not seen within the four-hour target.
New figures show the A&E department's performance against the four-hour target was at 82.8% in September, below the national average in England which was 85.2% and far below its target of 95%.
The figure has been published ahead of next week's meeting of the governing body of the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG (IES CCG).
Ipswich figures for October are yet to be released but NHS England reported last week that just 83.6% of A&E patients nationally were seen within the target time last month - the worst A&E performance results since targets began in 2004.
At Colchester Hospital, the figures from October show 86% of patients were seen within four hours, above the national average but below its 95% target.
West Suffolk Hospital is one of 14 taking part in the emergency standards access trials.
To ensure the trial's results accurately reflect how the scheme affects patient care, none of the trusts are publishing recent four-hour performance data.
Andy Yacoub, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: "This news is concerning and sadly indicative of the pressures on the emergency care provided by our hospitals.
"There is no doubt that many attendances at A&E are time critical - with swift care at times making the difference between life and death - and these targets are about ensuring people who need emergency treatment are seen within a period of time reflective of their needs.
"However, time is not the only factor when it comes to delivering good care.
"Our work to shape and inform a national pilot on A&E performance measures told us that other aspects are equally or at times more important in determining how a person is likely to feel about their experience, such as staff attitudes, the quality of explanations regarding their treatment, the availability of food or drink, and whether they felt informed and listened to as patients and carers.
"We are also supportive of announced plans for an Urgent Treatment Centre in Ipswich, and hope that these future infrastructure changes will help ease pressures on emergency departments and further improve patient care as a whole."
Karen Lough, director of operations at Ipswich Hospital, said: "Keeping our promises to patients and achieving all the national access standards, including seeing and admitting or discharging 95% of all patients attending the Emergency Department within four hours, is very important to us.
"We have worked very closely with all our clinical teams and system partners to make sure that we can see and treat people as quickly as possible.
"We have developed very detailed winter plans to cope with the anticipated increase in the number of patients coming to see us in the winter months."
The hospital has sought to improve A&E waiting times by bringing in a new way of working where patients with minor illnesses and injuries are assessed and managed away from emergency care.
Richard Watson, IES CCG deputy chief executive, said: "It is right we do all we can to tackle the pressures being felt by the hospital's emergency department and its hardworking staff.
"By having a primary care clinician available to assess and manage minor illness and injury, it means those patients will be given the most appropriate treatment or advice, such as to visit their local pharmacy for over-the-counter medicine or to make an appointment with their GP. The emergency department staff will then be better placed to treat those people requiring their care. While there are many ongoing challenges facing our NHS we believe this new way working is a positive step forward and expect the service to evolve over time as the hospital's new emergency department is developed."
Mr Watson said the CCG was looking to extend the hours of the scheme, from 9am to 9pm on weekends and from 4pm to 9pm weekdays, to ease pressure on A&E.