Increasing demand leads to A&E delays

Wigan hospital
Wigan hospital

Extra demand for emergency care this summer saw more people waiting for longer in A&E and delays for ambulances,

New figures reveal that Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department missed its waiting time target for the ninth consecutive month in July.

We are working very hard to collectively manage these pressures and improve local services

Dr Tim Dalton

The Department of Health wants 95 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours, but 89.67 per cent were actually seen in that time.

That fell from 93.87 per cent in June and was considerably lower than the 98 per cent achieved in July last year.

A total of 8,080 patients attended A&E, with 835 failing to leave the department within four hours.

The figures were published in a report for NHS Wigan Borough CCG’s governing body at their meeting this week,

They show the North West Ambulance Service was also under pressure, with a fall in response times to emergency calls and longer handover times once ambulances arrive at hospital.

The eight-minute response time to “red one” calls in the borough was 62.6 per cent and for “red two” calls it was 61.2 per cent.

Across the North West, they responded to red one calls in eight minutes in 70.45 per cent of cases, falling from 73.06 per cent in June, and to red two calls in 62.69 per cent of cases, dropping from 66.2 per cent. The target for both is 75 per cent.

Once at the hospital, it took more than 30 minutes for patients to be passed to hospital staff in 18.36 per cent of cases and more than 60 minute in 5.29 per cent.

That was a big rise from 10.7 per cent and 1.74 per cent in June, and compares to just 3.19 per cent and 0.56 per cent in July last year. There were 2,097 arrivals by ambulance at Wigan Infirmary, with 385 handover delays of more than 30 minutes and 111 of more than 60 minutes.

Dr Tim Dalton, GP and chairman of NHS Wigan Borough CCG, said: “July was a tough month for the local NHS and the rest of the summer followed a similar pattern. Our A&E and ambulances have needed to manage and treat a lot of very sick patients. We used to talk about winter pressures on local services, but increasingly we have pressures year round. This situation isn’t unique to Wigan borough, but can be seen replicated up and down the country.

“We are working very hard to collectively manage these pressures and improve local services.

“Residents can help us by saving ambulances and A&E for emergency and life-threatening conditions and illnesses and using other services, such as GPs, pharmacists and the walk-in-centre whenever they can.”

An ambulance service spokesman said: “In July we had a nine per cent increase in the number of serious life-threatening ‘red’ calls compared to June.

“This extra demand could be due to many various factors but during the summer holidays we do usually see an increase in emergency calls as more people will be out and about but also the warmer weather can create problems for those with respiratory issues.

“Those calls categorised as ‘red’ are for patients in a serious condition and need to be treated in hospital which results in an increase in the number of patients arriving at emergency departments by ambulance. This undoubtedly puts pressure on the emergency departments at hospitals and unfortunately means that ambulance crews are waiting longer to handover patients into their care.

“We are working with our NHS colleagues to ensure there are timely ambulance handovers with one such initiative including the placement of ambulance liaison officers in emergency units.

“To help us deal with the most vulnerable patients, we would urge people to carefully consider whether their condition warrants an emergency response, or if they could seek alternative transport or other pathways of care such as a walk-in centre.”