Record-breaking number of patients seeking care as Wigan Infirmary's A&E has its busiest month

Wigan Infirmary’s A&E unit had its busiest month in years, as hard-working staff treated thousands of patients in need of care.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 10:22 am

Attendances at both the A&E department and Leigh Walk-In Centre, as well as casualty centres around the country, plummeted last year as the coronavirus pandemic began.

But they have been increasing since and new data from NHS England shows more than 14,000 people went to the borough’s centres in May.

A total of 9,419 people sought treatment at Wigan’s A&E unit last month, the highest number since the NHS began recording attendances monthly, rather than weekly, in June 2015.

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Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E department

That was an increase of 12 per cent from 8,399 patients in April and 61 per cent from 5,860 in May 2020, albeit that was during the first wave of the pandemic.

It was also a busy time for the walk-in centre, which had 4,611 attendances – the highest since January 2020 – up 13 per cent from 4,067 in April.

In late May, Dr Sanjay Arya, medical director at Wigan Infirmary urged people to consider going elsewhere for care if possible, due to the demand faced by staff at A&E.

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“Please think twice before rushing off to attend A&E, which is for medical emergencies or life-threatening conditions only.

“Our staff are doing an incredible job to care for the most unwell people who urgently need our care, but we need your help.

“There are plenty of alternatives available across the borough; always think NHS 111 first. NHS 111 offers urgent medical help and advice over the phone and online at 111.nhs.uk, where a trained adviser will assess you and find the right service for your needs. They will also book you in to see a GP or at the emergency department, if absolutely necessary.

“We also urge the public to remain vigilant and stay safe. With more restaurants and bars opening, and people returning to sports or getting into new ones, it’s more important than ever that we continue to look after ourselves and each other.

“Please help the NHS by celebrating safely, treating your body with care, and getting the right care at the right time, and at the right place.”

The data was published just days after the Health and Social Care Committee called for immediate action to support exhausted NHS staff around the country who have worked throughout the pandemic.

The NHS England statistics show 88.2 per cent of patients were seen within the target time of four hours – 82.4 per cent in Wigan’s A&E and 99.9 per cent at the walk-in centre.

Although down on the previous month, it was above the 83.7 per cent performance for hospitals across England.

The trust had 3,427 emergency admissions, with 3,074 of those from A&E. That was slightly less than the 3,444 admissions in April 2021, which was the highest since the current records began in 2015.

Once the decision to admit was made, 208 patients had to wait for more than four hours for a bed, but no-one waited for more than 12 hours.

Nationally, A&E attendances in England last month were 65 per cent higher than a year ago, although this is a reflection of lower-than-usual numbers for May 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 2.08m attendances were recorded in May, up from 1.26m in May 2020. The figure for May 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 2.17m.

Dr Nick Scriven, past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The warning signs about where the NHS was heading were glaringly visible a number of years ago and what we are seeing in recent monthly data is the result of a lack of preparedness for the inevitable.

“With acute and emergency care under increasing strain and bed occupancy well over safe levels at more than 90 per cent – yet far less impact from Covid at this point – we have major problems.

“We are in a dire state when it comes to record numbers of people waiting for treatment, but we must also remember the four-hour emergency access target has not been met for years now with little to no change in approach.”

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