Hospitals miss A&E target during ‘toughest winter ever’

PUBLISHED: 18:07 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:07 11 January 2018

Crawford Jamieson, Ipswich Hospital's medical director. Picture: PAGEPIX

Crawford Jamieson, Ipswich Hospital's medical director. Picture: PAGEPIX

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Hospitals in our region failed to hit A&E waiting time targets in December, new figures reveal.

Nick Jenkins, medical director at West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDNick Jenkins, medical director at West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

A union boss says NHS workers in the East of England are struggling to cope with “critical” pressures this winter, and demanded more money be injected into the health system.

The national standard is for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours of arrival at an emergency room.

Colchester A&E was visited 12,669 times last month and 88.5% of visitors were dealt within the recommended time.

However, this was a vast improvement from December 2016, when the hospital had almost half the number of attendances but performed much worse.

Tim Roberts, from UNISON. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDTim Roberts, from UNISON. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Ipswich’s emergency department had 8,179 attendances last month and dealt with 84.4% of visitors within the target.

West Suffolk performed the worst, seeing just 83.3% of its 5,959 A&E visitors within four hours.

In November, the hospital actually had more emergency attendances (5,985) and achieved 90.4%.

Tim Roberts, regional manager for UNISON in the East of England, said: “UNISON members in our local hospitals and ambulance service are reporting that pressures at work are at a critical level.

“Extra resources for the NHS this winter are desperately needed.

“GP and primary care centres need to be better funded and more resources need to be put into social care so patients can leave hospital earlier.

“Since 2010 NHS funding has increased by on average 1.3% each year and that’s less than the rate of inflation and clearly less than the services desperately need.”

Crawford Jamieson, medical director at Ipswich Hospital, said it had been “the toughest winter we have faced”, but the trust was prepared and it never ran out of beds.

The hospital is above the 95% A&E target for the first week of January, Mr Jamieson said.

Nick Jenkins, medical director for the West Suffolk Hospital, said over this Christmas and New Year period the trust’s A&E saw on average 22 extra patients a day compared to 2016/17, with more requiring admission to a ward due to the severity of their condition.

He added: “We will continue to do everything we can to make sure that patients aren’t waiting any longer than is absolutely necessary, but we have to prioritise emergency department care for the patients who are the most unwell, which means that less immediately unwell patients sometimes do have to wait.”

Nationally, A&E waiting time targets have hit their lowest level in 14 years.

New figures also show one in every five ambulances faced hand over delays of longer than half an hour at Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk A&Es during the first week of January.

Pressure on ambulance service ‘severe’

The region’s ambulance service has downgraded its pressure level from ‘extreme’ to ‘severe’.

East of England Ambulance Service has reduced to Resource Escalation Action Plan (REAP) level 3, following 10 days at level 4, the highest rating.

The trust has taken this step as it found demand for its service calming. On Tuesday it received 3,200 calls, which compares to more than 4,800 on New Year’s Day.

Kevin Brown, director of service delivery, said: “We would to thank our staff and volunteers for their hard work over what has been a very challenging period, and also thank the public and partners for their support during the extremely busy period we’ve just experienced.

“The reduction from extreme to severe should not detract from the severity of the operational pressure and previously, the trust operated for a considerable period at REAP 3, which is reflective of the significant capacity gap that exists.”

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