Hospital chief apologises for A&E delays and promises action

Wigan Infirmary A&E
Wigan Infirmary A&E

Wigan’s hospital boss has apologised for longer waiting times in A&E and promised rapid action, blaming IT glitches for the disruption.

Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust, said the roll-out of a computer system providing staff with instant access to patients’ data had caused more problems than anticipated.

Wigan Infirmary has been struggling to see patients arriving at accident and emergency within four hours, with the rate falling to around 75 per cent since the IT system was introduced compared to 88 per cent beforehand.

Waiting times for individual patients have also rocketed since October.

The hospital is now looking to fix the issues before Tuesday, December 19 or it will switch off the system in A&E until the problems can be solved.

The Trust’s inability to meet the national target for prompt access to healthcare had led to reports suggesting top NHS bosses had visited Wigan to order improvements.

Mr Foster said this was inaccurate but acknowledged a constructive meeting with the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSC) had taken place.

Mr Foster said: “What we have found is it is taking a lot more time to process individuals than we had thought.

“As a result waiting times in A&E have gone up quite dramatically. We deeply regret that as it is inconvenient for patients.

“It was anticipated there would be teething problems but we did think the impact would be smaller and much shorter-lived than it has turned out to be.

“There’s no point in finding somebody to blame, we want to put all our energy into sorting it out. We have agreed with GMHSC that by next Tuesday if we can’t fix the problem we will temporarily switch it off in A&E.

“I want to reassure people we are putting every effort into solving this problem if we can within the next week. If not we will turn it off until we are ready to try it again.”

Mr Foster said the patient information system had first been introduced at Wigan Infirmary in June 2016 and was slowly being rolled out across all the wards and departments.

The temporary switch-off would only apply to A&E, with the hospital’s other departments continuing to use the IT system.

Rising demand in the colder weather for hospital services has not helped the backlog, with the Trust having to issue numerous calls for the public to stay away from A&E except in serious emergencies in recent weeks.

The electronic information programme makes data on patients’ previous hospital visits available to doctors almost instantaneously.

In A&E it takes information from when patients first arrive in triage, from their assessments and from diagnosis and treatment.

WWL held the meeting with GMHSC as scheduled visits from regional health bosses are routine when performance at a Trust dips.

Mr Foster said the meeting was conducted in a spirit of sympathy for the problems Wigan is facing rather than Greater Manchester chiefs arriving to dole out

criticism.

Mr Foster also said three other hospital Trusts were having similar problems with IT roll-outs and WWL would be keeping in touch with another one which has opted for a similar solution.

Jon Rouse, GMHSC’s chief officer, said: “Similar to many hospitals in Greater Manchester and nationally, the A&E department at Wigan Infirmary is currently under pressure due to increased demand.

“We are working closely with the trust and the wider local system to look at how we can address current pressures and ensure ongoing high quality care for patients.

“Following a productive meeting last week, I know that the hospital and community services are working really hard to deliver improvements in difficult circumstances.”