Hospital battle to meet A&E waiting times

Wigan Infirmary's A&E department has missed its waiting time target for eight consecutive months.

Tuesday, 16th August 2016, 10:17 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:48 pm

The Department of Health wants 95 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours - but this goal was only last met in Wigan last October.

However, the unit is performing well compared to other A&Es and Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, was among the best performing trusts in Greater Manchester.

The hospital has met with problems in recent months, not least the closure of Chorley A&E which itself has led to an upsurge in patient numbers.

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Mary Fleming

Bosses have been urging people to seek treatment elsewhere unless they are seriously ill or injured because of the upsurge in demand - calls now vindicated by the latest figures showing an on-going missing of waiting time targets.

Mary Fleming, director of operations and performance at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I would like to say thank you for the thoughtful response by patients in the Wigan borough to our messages to choose well when considering their healthcare options.

“We really appreciate everyone for making the right decisions on choosing the most appropriate healthcare for their condition.

“Despite the challenges our department has faced, we are still one of the higher performing trusts in Greater Manchester.

Mary Fleming

“Our performance is a reflection of how hard the hospital, social care, mental health, community services, North West Ambulance Service and many other services have been working together, to bring about the best possible results for our patients.”

The Department of Health’s target is currently for 95 per cent of A&E patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival. Wigan’s A&E achieved that target for 93.9 per cent of patients in June.

A total of 7,386 people attended A&E and it took more than four hours for 453 of the patients to be dealt with.

Nationally, 90.5 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in June and 90.3 per cent for the financial year so far.

Wigan’s performance in June was an improvement on the 90.3 per cent it achieved in May and 92.97 per cent in April. A&E saw an extra 942 patients in April and May compared to the year before, following the closure of Chorley’s A&E due to staffing problems. Six nursing homes and two wards’ shutting due to norovirus in the first two weeks of April also had an impact.

The trust last met its target in October, when it saw 95 per cent of patients within four hours. The worst performance was in January, when it fell to 89.8.

The increased number of patients in Wigan looks set to continue as Chorley’s A&E department will remain closed until at least April, when a review will take place.

Ayaz Abbasi, A&E consultant and clinical director, said: “Usually we have a busy winter time and in summer we have less patients because of the school holidays and people go overseas to enjoy sunny holidays.

“But this time we are not having that, in fact it looks like we are in winter because the number of patients has increased and we are still busy.”

Other reasons given for the rising number of patients were the introduction of NHS 111 and a reduction in patients accessing GP out-of-hours services.

Mr Abbasi said there were also more sicker patients going to the hospital and they were staying for longer.

Steps are being taken to help cope with the extra demand, such as an integrated discharge hub to overcome obstacles to people being discharged, like needing a carer or home adaptations.

There are more staff than last year and rotas have been changed so there are more people available at busier times.

Consultant cover is now provided 16 hours a day, which Mr Abbasi said was among the best in the area.

Also making a difference is an app to predict how many patients will go to A&E each week, day or even each hour.