Medics prepared for ‘perfect storm’

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ACCIDENT and emergency staff are well prepared for a “perfect storm” this winter, according to Wigan’s hospitals boss.

Usual seasonal pressure exacerbated by a lack of staff and possible industrial action by junior doctors makes for a “very worrying” period, according to a senior UK medic.

Our A&E department is one of the best, among the top performing in the North West and one of the best in the country, it really is a top notch department

Andrew Foster

Dr Mark Holland, the president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “(The) intensity is beginning to creep up. Not on a day-to-day consistent basis like last December and January, but it’s starting and it feel like it is occurring a wee bit too early.”

But the chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Trust, Andrew Foster, allayed any concern borough residents may have.

He told the Evening Post: “Our A&E department is one of the best, among the top performing in the North West and one of the best in the country, it really is a top notch department.

“We have our stresses and strains, especially around staff shortages, but that’s common across the NHS.

“The guys we’ve already got in there are so good they do attract in. But we’re aware winter will be a problem and we have plans in place. “

Over last year’s Christmas period, Wigan Infirmary was one of very few departments to maintian high target rates during the national waiting times crisis.

Residents were urged to only use the A&E in serious circumstances and make use of the borough’s other non-emergency medical outlets such as pharmacies and drop-in centres.

Mr Foster added: “We have a great track record and we anticipate there will be some difficult and dark days ahead. But the team spirit and flexibility we have will get us through it in better shape than other places.

“The patients can see it too, the morale of the staff passes over to them.”

NHS England yesterday released figures showing A&Es across the country are already failing to hit waiting times targets, adding further fuel to the “perfect storm” warnings.

Dr Holland added: “There is already talk of putting ambulances on divert, of taking patients to other hospitals.

“That intensity is beginning to creep up. Not on a day-to-day consistent basis like last December and January, but it’s starting and it feel like it is occurring a wee bit too early. The question this winter is how resilient we will be and what will be the tipping point. And that is the unknown factor which is very, very worrying.”

Adding: “Now, in medical terms, it feels like the summer no longer exists. It feels as if it is always the winter.

“You have got the perfect storm. You have got junior doctors in dispute with the Government, we cannot recruit into all of our training posts and there are lots of consultant posts unfilled.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “Frontline services are treating more patients than ever, and it’s right to say that we need strong primary and social care to help offset the pressures on A&E.

“But it is also worth remembering that, despite the usual flow of negative predictions at this time of year, our services continue to admit or treat and discharge more than nine out of 10 patients within four hours.”