Long A&E waits hit N&N targets

PUBLISHED: 10:53 24 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:27 03 July 2010

Patients having to wait too long in A&E mean Norfolk's biggest hospital is set to miss one of its key government targets for the year.

All hospitals are supposed to make sure at least 98pc of patients spend less than four hours in A&E.

Patients having to wait too long in A&E mean Norfolk's biggest hospital is set to miss one of its key government targets for the year.

All hospitals are supposed to make sure at least 98pc of patients spend less than four hours in A&E. But the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is due to miss the target.

Hospitals across the country have been struggling after a busy winter and feeling pressure from regional health authorities. Chief executives fear they will be held responsible if the target, one of the government's key pledges in its efforts to improve the NHS, is not met.

The issue will be discussed at two key meetings today - NHS Norfolk's board and the hospital's own council of governors. The NHS Norfolk meeting will be told the hospital is “unlikely” to meet the target for the 2008-9 financial year.

At the N&N the numbers being seen within four hours have been down to 95.5pc at the busiest times, while the year so far is at 97.98pc - close to but just short of the target. It means across the year approximately 1,700 people have spent more than four hours in A&E, and around 250 in January alone.

A joint plan has been agreed with both bodies and the ambulance trust, and measures have already been put in place to make improvements, including

- a targeted media campaign promoting alternatives, such as NHS Direct and out-of-hours doctors, to the public

- looking at the reasons people go to A&E with minor injuries, and asking GPs to tell patients about other services

- trying to reduce bed-blocking, which peaked at 82 beds recently, to a maximum of 30 at a time

- working with emergency social care services such as Swifts and Night Owls.

Hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach said: “A&E has been extremely tough for hospitals up and down the country and we are likely to achieve just under 98pc performance on that target because of the pressures we have faced over winter. We have turned that corner now and we expect A&E performance to be more sustainable.”

The report to today's NHS Norfolk meeting from Steve Davies, interim director of performance and contract management, says: “Difficulties with patient flow continued to affect A&E. Combined with an increase in demand and the pattern of activity presenting, the service has been under considerable pressure.”

At the JPH the four-hour target was missed in December, January and February, but it is expected to meet the target for the full year. Health chiefs at NHS Yarmouth and Waveney's board meeting tomorrow will be told they are monitoring it “on a daily basis” and an action plan has been put in place. The March figures are already showing an improvement.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn missed the target in December but has met it for every other month and will meet the annual target.

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