Ambulances that would normally have gone to Wigan Infirmary’s casualty department were re-routed to hospitals further away seven times in a fortnight because of service pressures, it can be revealed today.
New figures have been published by NHS England showing there were casualty diverts in place on six days between January 21 and February 2 this year.
Patients were sent to other hospitals twice on January 28 and once each on January 21, 27, 29 and 30, as well as February 2.
The data has been revealed as part of a report into the situation faced by hospitals across the country this winter.
It goes back to November 20 and shows that no other ambulances had to be diverted from Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) in that time.
That’s despite health chiefs’ saying that they have been facing huge pressures in recent weeks, on one occasion, noting that no fewer than 14 ambulances were queueing up outside Wigan accident and emergency.
Mary Fleming, director of operations and performance at the trust, said no patients had been turned away from A&E.
She said: “During periods of increased demand when waiting times increase in A&E, hospitals work closely with the North West Ambulance Service to ensure ambulance crews can be released form emergency departments quickly.
“This may involve ambulances diverting to a neighbouring trust for a short period of time, normally one hour.
“WWL requested a small number of diverts throughout January to assist with building pressures and during these periods Wigan A&E continued to accept life-threatening 999 patients at all times.”
The pressure faced by the NHS nationally, particularly during the winter months, has been widely reported.
Bosses at Wigan’s hospitals have repeatedly issued warnings of longs waits to be seen at A&E, sometimes up to 12 hours in recent months.
An increase in ambulance arrivals and handover times, extra admissions to A&E particularly people over 75, longer stays in hospital for medical patients and the introduction of a new IT system were all said to have contributed to the pressures faced by the trust.
The number of ambulances taking patients to the hospital rose over the New Year period, with 101 on December 31, 94 on January 1 and 97 on January 4.
But while no patients faced a wait of more than 30 minutes to be handed over to hospital staff on New Year’s Eve, 20 waited for more than half an hour the following day and 25 for more than an hour.
On January 3, 90 patients arrived by ambulance but 18 had to wait for more than 30 minutes and 32 for over an hour.
The new figures also reveal the high bed occupancy rates at the hospital in recent weeks,
Every general and acute bed was being used by a patient on January 13 and February 3, while occupancy has not dropped below 92 per cent every day this year.
The 11 adult critical care beds were also in demand, with every one being used on January 20 and 26.
No beds have had to be closed due to either norovirus or vomiting and diarrhoea since November.
WWL has been urging people only to see 999 help or go to A&E if they have serious or life-threatening conditions, otherwise advising them to attend GP surgeries, the walk-in centre or pharamacies, or ringing NHS 111.