Patient numbers fall at Wigan's casualty units

Attendances at the borough’s casualty departments plummeted and waiting times soared as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic began.
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New figures published by NHS England reveal that fewer people sought treatment at A&E units across the country last month, including those within Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

A total of 1.6 million attendances were recorded in England in October 2020, down 26 per cent from 2.2 million in October 2019.

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NHS England said the fall was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – suggesting people were staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E departmentAmbulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E department
Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E department

The new figures show 9,758 people went to the borough’s casualty units last month - 6,811 to Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department and 2,947 to Leigh Walk-In Centre.

That was a drop of 8.1 per cent from the month before and a massive 20.8 per cent fall from October 2019.

Only 74.4 per cent of patients were seen by the trust within the four-hour target time, falling from 87.0 per cent in September and 86.1 per cent in October last year.

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This target was met for 63.5 per cent of patients in the A&E department and 99.5 per cent at the walk-in centre.

Nationally, 84.4 per cent of all patients were admitted, transferred of discharged within four hours of their arrival.

There were 2,475 emergency admissions to the borough’s hospitals last month, with the majority of those coming via the A&E unit

This was a 14.3 per cent fall from 2,889 admissions in September 2020 and 23.9 per cent down on 3,253 in October last year.

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Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a fall last month, down 14 per cent from 563,133 in October 2019 to 481,846 in October 2020.

This was again attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than a third of the 2,475 admissions in Wigan - 847 patients - had to wait for more than four hours for a bed, after medics decided they should be admitted.

This compared to 287 patients in September and 624 in the same period last year.

There were 47 patients who faced a wait of more than 12 hours for a bed last month, compared to none the month before and just two in October 2019.

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Hospitals across the country saw attendances at A&E units drop significantly earlier in the year, when the coronavirus outbreak began.

While attendances remained lower than usual at Wigan’s A&E unit and walk-in centre, people had started to return when they needed help over the summer.

But the new data shows they were once again staying away, as coronavirus infection rates rose last month.

That comes despite hospital chiefs urging people to keep seeking treatment at A&E if they really needed it.

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Dr Sanjay Arya, medical director for Wigan’s acute hospital trust, said last month that fewer people sought help for heart attacks, strokes and other serious conditions when the pandemic began earlier this year.

But he said staff were well prepared to provide a “safe and secure” environment for patients with life-threatening illnesses unrelated to coronavirus during the second wave.

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