A&E performance hits all-time low as patients are urged to write to MPs over NHS
Archant Norfolk 2017
The county's busiest hospital recorded the worst A&E performance in the country last month, as a leading emergency medicine organisation urged patients to write to their MPs demanding action over the NHS.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), which represents emergency doctors, made the unprecedented move after new statistics showed the worst ever performance at major A&E departments across the country.
The NHS sets a target that 95pc of patients attending A&E should be admitted to hospital, transferred to another provider, or discharged within four hours.
But last month the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) saw just 62pc of patients within that time - the worst performance out of 133 NHS trusts where all cases are taken into account including some walk-in centres.
When compared to A&E departments which deal with the most serious cases - known as type one departments - the NNUH’s performance improved and they came third from the bottom.
At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn, 69pc of patients were seen within the time limit and at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, 83pc of patients were seen within the four hours.
This compared to 85pc average nationally.
All three hospitals were performing better last year, with performance at the QEH changing most dramatically. Last year the hospital was doing better by 21.3pc.
The NNUH was performing better by 14.9pc and the JPUH by 4.3pc.
But Dr Taj Hassan, president of the RCEM, said the figures were not surprising and that “patient care will continue to suffer”.
He said the figures would have previously be regarded as “wholly unacceptable” but were now normal.
He said: “It’s important to remember that while performance issues are more pronounced during the winter, emergency departments are now struggling all year round.”
He added: “The current crisis in our emergency departments and in the wider NHS is not the fault of patients. It is not because staff aren’t working hard enough, not because of the actions of individual trusts, not because of the weather or norovirus, not purely because of influenza, immigration or inefficiencies and not because performance targets are unfeasible. The current crisis was wholly predictable and is due to a failure to prioritise the need to increase healthcare funding on an urgent basis.”
A spokesman for the NNUH pointed towards the more serious problems patients going there had compared to, for example, a walk-in centre, which may skew results. They said: “February has been a challenging month for our emergency department and we are disappointed to be reporting a performance below the standards we expect. Demand for our services over this period has been extremely high, with up to 180 daily ambulance attendances and an average of more than 340 patients attending ED each day.
“This significant level of demand has tested the systems and processes we have in place in our ED, placing pressure on our teams and capacity. Our teams have been working extremely hard and we are working together alongside system partners to identify where improvements can be made. We recognise the need to expand our capacity and we are investing £1m in expanding the ED further and to increase the ED facilities for patients with mental health problems, as well as recruiting additional staff.
“We have taken steps to investigate our performance and have plans agreed to bring about swift improvements to ensure our patients receive the best possible experience of our services.”
Chief operating officer at the QEH, Ciara Moore, said: “We have experienced significant winter pressures throughout the first part of 2018 with an increase in A&E attendance and acutely unwell patients seeking our care and this has had an impact on meeting the four hour A&E target. This is a regional and national problem with many Trusts experiencing similar issues.”
While Christine Allen, chief executive at JPUH, added: “The latest figures for February simply reflect the exceptional pressure that our hospital has faced since the Christmas period, which has seen huge pressure on our A&E department and on our bed capacity. The effort of our staff, working with our partners, in continuing to meet this demand has been immense, as has their teamwork and dedication to caring for our patients.”