Patient went to A&E 28 times in a month

Mary Fleming, director of operations and performance
Mary Fleming, director of operations and performance

A frustrated NHS boss has called for a better response to patients with alcohol problems after one ended up in A&E 28 times in just four weeks.

Director of operations and performance at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust Mary Fleming took to social media to say a particular patient had visited Wigan Infirmary an astonishing 126 times in the space of a few months.

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That, extraordinarily, included the person arriving at casualty five times in a 24-hour period.

Ms Fleming said this was evidence that the way authorities are responding to people with deep-seated personal issues needs to change.

She described the pressure repeat admissions for alcohol-related issues puts on the NHS and said the trips to hospital by ambulance staff and police officers were futile as there was little doctors could do for anyway.

The first Twitter message read: “Patient brought to A&E for the 28th time in a month ... 126 attendances over the past few months. Public phone police, police bring to A&E stating it’s an NHS problem. Patient sleeps it off and straight back out again...how is this an NHS problem?”

She quickly clarified that this problem involved members of the public ringing the North West Ambulance Service.

She tweeted: “Public phone ambulance or police who then bring the patient to A&E. No treatment required just cubicle to sleep it off.”

On one occasion the patient went to the Wigan Lane hospital twice within the space of an hour. There were also more than 30 emergency drop-offs at the accident and emergency department in a five-day period.

Several people responded to the hard-hitting tweets speaking about the NHS’s duty of care but Ms Fleming remained clear hospitals were unfairly being burdened.

Replying to a suggestion a patient would be better in A&E than on the streets, she said: “Of course we have a duty of care...but we’re not caring for her by passing her around the system.”

She subsequently released a statement which read: “Frequent users of emergency departments form a highly vulnerable population, often having a high burden of complex social and medical needs.

“The Wigan locality benefits from an excellent partnership between the public services and this is key to the early and effective identification of risk to these vulnerable people.

“This multi-agency partnership has resulted in improved information sharing, joint decision making and coordinated action to prevent frequent use of emergency services on many occasions.

“Despite all our best combined efforts there are exceptional circumstances when vulnerable individuals have to be brought to the A&E department as a place of safety, even if they do not require medical treatment.

“During these times the trust is committed to working alongside partners across emergency, health and social care system to make sure people in a deteriorating situation are safeguarded at all times.”