Wigan's hospitals see 5,469 more patients a year than they did five years ago

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

More than 100 extra patients were admitted to hospital every week to Wigan’s hospitals last year compared to five years ago, figures reveal.

Health experts say there is an “urgent need” for more staff to address a surge in demand in the NHS, driven in part by the increasing number of people living with complex long-term conditions.

NHS Digital data shows 86,645 patients were admitted to hospitals run by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) in 2018-19.

That was 5,469 more than during 2014-15 – the equivalent of 105 extra patients every week.

Across England, hospitals had to deal with almost 24,000 additional admissions every week last year compared to 2014-15.

Over the course of the year, staff saw 17.1 million patients, an increase of eight per cent.

Richard Murray, chief executive of health think tank the King’s Fund, said the evidence suggested a decades-old policy of reducing the number of hospital beds had “gone too far”, with more beds and increased investment in the community now needed.

He said: “Critically, if the NHS is to open more hospital beds it will need more people to staff them, but the NHS is already in the grips of a major workforce crisis.

“A credible plan to increase staff numbers is urgently needed. Even then, it will take time to stabilise services and in the meantime patients will unfortunately have to continue waiting longer to receive the care that they need.”

The increase at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust was driven by emergency cases, which rose by 32 per cent over the five-year period.

But elective admissions – those arranged in advance – fell by three per cent.

Average waiting times faced by patients across the country for an elective admission were a week longer in 2018-19, rising to 61 days.

At WWL, average waits increased from 45 to 52 days.

Dr Rob Harwood, consultants committee chair at the British Medical Association, said underfunding, a lack of beds and chronic staff shortages meant doctors and other NHS staff were being placed under undue pressure.

He said: “All this means patients face lengthy waits for treatment with too many forced to wait in uncomfortable conditions in A&E wards or hospital corridors.

“The Government must get a grip of this crisis, and though MPs have promised more funding, the BMA has been clear that the money pledged will not be enough to make up for years of underinvestment.”

The organisation called for 10,000 more beds to ease pressure on frontline services, as well as a 4.1 per cent annual funding increase.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are providing the NHS with a record cash funding boost of £33.9bn extra a year within the next five years, which we are enshrining in law.

“Our record funding will allow us to put 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 more GPs and 6,000 more primary care professionals onto the frontline to deliver a world-class NHS.”

* Meanwhile fewer patients are being admitted to hospital at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Trust compared to five years ago, despite soaring patient numbers elsewhere in the country.

NHS Digital data shows 2,630 patients were admitted to hospital at the trust, which specialises in the treatment of people with mental health issues in Wigan and several other areas, in 2018-19.

That was 51 fewer than during 2014-15 – a drop of two per cent.