Wigan patients’ long wait for A&E care is revealed

Thousands of patients waited for more than four hours to be seen at Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department last month, it has been revealed.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 12:30 pm

Hospital staff have been preparing for an extremely busy winter, with the usual number of patients rising due to people with coronavirus and those whose care was delayed during the pandemic.

But already the pressure is being felt in the casualty department, despite repeated calls by health chiefs for people to only go there if they are inn accident or a life-threatening condition.

New data published by NHS England shows 8,666 people sought help at the A&E unit in October, up 3.6 per cent from 8,363 the month before.

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Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary's A&E department

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A further 5,035 people went to Leigh Walk-In Centre, up 0.48 per cent from 5,011, taking the total attendances at both centres to 13,701.

But only 57.7 per cent of patients (4,997) at the A&E department were seen within the target time of four hours, falling from 60.6 per cent in September.

The walk-in centre saw 99.5 per cent of people within this time, pushing up the performance of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to 73.0 per cent. This was just below the figure for the whole of England of 73.9 per cent.

There were 2,533 emergency admissions to the hospitals, down eight per cent from 2,756 in September, with the majority of those patients coming via A&E.

But there were long waits for a bed to become available, once medical staff had made the decision to admit a patient - 979 people had to wait for four hours, while 47 waited for more than 12 hours.

This reflects how busy other areas of the hospitals must have been, as staff worked to find beds for those patients who needed them.

Mary Fleming, the hospital trust’s deputy chief executive, said: “Our teams continue to work incredibly hard to provide the best care and support possible in what continue to be challenging times for our services. We want to ensure that people aren’t unnecessarily waiting for long periods of time in our emergency department when they could have been seen and treated more appropriately and quicker through alternative support.

“We can all help make sure that people with the most urgent needs are seen quickest by thinking about how we seek care and treatment. If you are unsure, you can call 111 or use the online service any time of day to get urgent health advice.

“Choosing well helps keep A&E free for emergencies and those who are critically ill. Anyone attending who is considered by a health professional to be a non-emergency will instead be supported to access a more appropriate service such as a pharmacist, minor injuries unit, community services such as nursing, long-term condition support and therapy services, or other primary care services.”

The situation at Wigan’s hospitals echoes that of NHS organisations across the country, as the pressure during traditionally busy winter months is exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A&E attendances at hospitals in England last month were 36 per cent higher than a year ago, NHS England said – although this is a reflection of lower-than-usual numbers for October 2020, which were affected by the pandemic.

A total of 2.2 million attendances were recorded in October 2021, up from 1.6m in October 2020. The equivalent figure for October 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 2.2m.

A record 7,059 people had to wait more than 12 hours for a bed at A&Es in England last month from a decision to admit to actually being admitted.

The figure is up from 5,025 in September and is the highest for any calendar month since records began in August 2010.

Some 121,000 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission – again, the highest monthly total on record.

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