Only half of patients at Wigan's A&E unit seen in four hours as omicron variant takes hold

Nearly half of all patients at Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department waited for more than four hours to be seen last month, new data has revealed.
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Statistics published by NHS England on Thursday morning show the casualty unit saw just 50.8 per cent of people within the target time.

That was despite fewer people turning up for help than in previous months, with 7,795 patients at A&E in December, compared to 8,508 in November.

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Overall, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust (WWL) saw 67.2 per cent of emergency patients in four hours, helped by the performance of 99.3 per cent at Leigh Walk-In Centre.

Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E unitAmbulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E unit
Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E unit

However, this was still the lowest figure for three years and was below the national figure of 73.3 per cent, which was the lowest percentage since records began in November 2010.

The data reveals the pressure faced by staff and management at the hospital as rising numbers of patients started to be seen with the omicron variant of coronavirus.

There were also absences among staff who had contracted the virus or had to isolate, as well as efforts to see patients whose treatment had been delayed earlier in the pandemic or whose condition had worsened after not getting help.

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Earlier this month, hospital trusts across Greater Manchester, including WWL, announced they would be postponing most elective care as they dealt with the new wave of the pandemic.

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The data from NHS England shows there were 2,512 emergency admissions to Wigan’s hospitals last month, up from 2,391 in November.

But once the decision to admit had been made, 1,052 people had to wait for more than four hours for a bed and 112 waited for more than 12 hours.

It reveals the demand for beds across the hospitals, not just in A&E.

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It was the same picture nationally, with a record 12,986 people waiting for more than 12 hours for a bed.

Some 120,218 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in December, slightly below the all-time high of 121,251 in October.

Mary Fleming, WWL's deputy chief executive, said: “Our priority is to always provide safe and high-quality care for people in the Wigan borough and surrounding areas, and as with other hospitals across Greater Manchester and the North West, our services are under sustained pressure with long waits to be seen in our emergency department.

“We want to reassure the public that the incredible efforts being made by our teams in the emergency department, and across all areas of the trust, is being carried out to ensure that the NHS is here for them when they need it.

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“We continue to strongly advise people to seek help from us if it is an emergency or life-threatening, but we must urge people to use the alternatives available if their condition is not. This will not only help people to get the most appropriate healthcare in the safest and most efficient way, it will help those who need emergency care the most by keeping our A&E available to them. If you do attend A&E and we feel your condition is not an emergency or life-threatening, you will wait longer to be seen.

“The NHS 111 service, local pharmacies, GP surgeries, dentists and walk-in centres are doing an amazing job of providing care to patients who don’t need to attend A&E. Making use of these services will help you to help us, and it will help you to help others as well.”

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