Thursday, May 30, 2024

Record numbers spent more than half a day in A&Es waiting for a bed

A RECORD number of people spent more than half a day in Essex A&Es waiting for a ward bed to free up last month reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

There are warnings the NHS in England is now facing unsustainable pressures with record 999 calls and long waits in A&Es.

Across Essex, 68,518 people visited A&Es in the area in October – the highest monthly total since monthly records began in June 2015.

Of those that did, the proportion who waited less than four hours from arrival to admission, discharge, or transfer stood at 77.4 per cent at Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, 61.1 per cent at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, and 78.7 per cent at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust.

There were also long waits for a ward bed for those who were admitted with 227 people having to spend more than 12 hours before getting a bed – the highest number on record.

The East of England Ambulance Service answered 101,377 calls to 999 in October – a record high number – with teams responding to 8,487 life threatening call-outs last month.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The NHS is now facing unsustainable pressures and running so hot it has reached a tipping point.

“These numbers highlight the extraordinary and unprecedented demand the health service is now facing with a waiting list that now tops 5.8 million.

“As our survey shows, healthcare leaders are sounding alarm bells and warning that patient safety is also at serious risk due to staff shortages.

“Unless we take action now this pressure is going to get even worse in the deepest midwinter months and we would urge the government to do everything it can to prevent the NHS from plunging further into crisis.

“As our sister service, social care also urgently needs extra funding and support now to ensure that medically fit patients can safely be discharged into the community freeing up capacity in the NHS.

“We also need clarity from the centre on how an expanded NHS workforce will be funded in the longer-term in the hope that we are never again faced with a staffing crisis of this magnitude.”

Doctor Denise Langhor, emergency medicine lead at the British Medical Association, and Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the consultants committee, said that while the Government says the NHS is under “sustainable pressure”, the figures suggest a health service that is nowhere near sustainable.

They said: “In emergency departments across the country, people are having to receive care in corridors because there is no space, and this not only creates extremely stressful working conditions for staff, but is also unsafe and results in poorer outcomes for patients.

“All of this is only set to get worse as we contend with upcoming worst-ever winter pressures, an ever-growing backlog of unmet need, and an inevitable rise in Covid hospitalisations.

“It’s our patients who suffer as a result, and every number in this data represents a person in pain and distress.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said with the highest number of 999 calls ever answered for a single month, the busiest October on record for major A&Es and the rollout of booster vaccinations, there was no doubt that pressure on the health service remained incredibly high.

He said: “But despite high demand, NHS staff are going above and beyond to see more patients and deliver millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations.

“Increasing numbers are coming forward for treatment and this is expected to go up, but it remains really important people do not delay seeking help from the NHS if they feel unwell.

“Anyone needing help should come forward through 111 online so that staff can help you with the best option for your care, and it is as important as ever to get your lifesaving Covid and flu jab, to protect you this winter.”

Neill Moloney is acting chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals.

He said: “Achieving all the national access standards, including seeing and admitting or discharging 95 per cent of all patients attending our A&E departments within four hours, is very important to us.

“The number of people we are treating in our hospitals, including those with Covid-19, has been increasing and we are seeing more acutely ill patients too. This has a huge impact on our A&E departments, but our teams are working incredibly hard to see and treat people attending our hospitals as quickly and as safely as they can.

“If anyone is seriously unwell and needs urgent or emergency care, they must of course come to hospital, but the best way our communities can support the NHS this winter is to use services appropriately.

“If it’s not a medical emergency, call NHS 111 or visit first.”

Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We are continually striving to improve the experience of patients attending our emergency department (ED), including waiting times for admission. We have seen an increase in attendances to our emergency department in recent months.

“Our dedicated teams work hard to assess, treat and admit patients and ensure that those who are well enough can leave hospital and return home. We are committed to enhancing patient flow through our hospital and discharging our patients in a timely manner.

“We encourage patients to contact NHS 111 first to find the right place for their healthcare needs. Often, most minor injuries and illnesses can be treated safely and quickly outside of a hospital environment by a GP, local pharmacy or with the right self-care.”

Mid and South NHS Hospital Trust has been contacted for comment.


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