Half the number of patients go to Wigan's A&E units during coronavirus pandemic

Attendances at Wigan’s casualty departments have plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures have revealed.

Friday, 15th May 2020, 11:22 am

Wigan Infirmary’s A&E unit and Leigh Walk-In Centre saw half the number of patients last month that they treated in April last year.

Data previously released by NHS England showed a slight rise in attendances in March, despite people staying away from A&Es around the rest of the country.

But now the borough’s hospitals reflect those elsewhere, as trusts in England recorded their lowest number of A&E attendances and emergency admissions on record.

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Wigan Infirmary's A&E department

It comes despite bosses at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust previously urging people to continue seeking help for urgent medical conditions, despite the coronavirus crisis.

The new figures show there were 6,059 attendances at both A&E and the walk-in centre in April - a drop of 50.89 per cent from 12,339 in April 2019.

There were 4,499 attendances at A&E, down 40.62 per cent from 7,577, and 1,560 at the walk-in centre, falling 67.37 per cent from 4,782.

Overall, the trust admitted, transferred or discharged 94.2 per cent of patients within four hours - one of its best performances for some time and just short of the 95 per cent national target.

The A&E department saw 92.2 per cent of people within the target time, while it was 99.8 per cent for the walk-in centre.

There were 2,828 emergency admissions last month, a rise of 4.4 per cent from 2,708 in April 2019.

Mary Fleming, chief operating officer, said: “During April, the accident and emergency department at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust received a fewer amount of attendances than previous months, reflecting the national trend.

“This is likely due to public concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, and while lockdown and social distancing have no doubt resulted in fewer accidents and people accessing their GP and other online services, we are concerned there are some people who have ‘critical’ health concerns who are not coming to A&E because they are worried about contracting the virus or overloading the NHS.

“We would urge these people to not delay seeking help, we remain open and ready to treat you.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all NHS staff and key workers across the Wigan borough for their commitment to maintaining critical services throughout.

“Stay alert – stay safe.”

Nationally, 916,581 A&E attendances were recorded in April, down 57 per cent from 2.1m in April 2019.

The number is the lowest for any calendar month since current records began in August 2010.

NHS England, which published the figures, said the fall was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – an indication that people have been staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a sharp fall last month, down 39 per cent from 535,226 in April 2019 to 326,581 in April 2020. This is the lowest number reported for any calendar month since current records began.

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the drop in A&E attendances was “a significant concern” and people’s conditions may have worsened as a result.

“This is a ticking time-bomb in itself and it will be exacerbated by a myriad of other pressures in the coming weeks,” he said.

“There will be an ongoing need to keep people with coronavirus separate from others to prevent transmission, with segregated wards effectively reducing immediately available beds, so attempting to manage increased demand will be very challenging.”

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “NHS hospitals went from looking after just several hundred confirmed coronavirus positive inpatients at the beginning of March to nearly 19,000 inpatients by mid-April.

“It is an amazing achievement that every Covid-19 patient who needed hospital in-patient care or critical care was able to receive it.

“A&E attendances were sharply down, but the majority of these reductions were for lower-risk conditions.

“Urgent cancer referrals are now picking back up – having doubled over the past three weeks – and the NHS has launched a public information campaign reminding the people of the importance of seeking care for urgent and emergency conditions.”

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