Wigan A&E waits are among worst in the country

Wigan Infirmary A&E
Wigan Infirmary A&E

Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department is one of the worst in the country for waiting times, it has been revealed.

New data published by NHS England reveals a large rise in the number of patients waiting longer for treatment and the continuing pressure on Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

Just 60.2 per cent of the 6,882 people who attended the unit in March were seen within the target time of four hours. This was the fifth worst performance among trusts in England.

In comparison, in March last year, 87.9 per cent of the 7,741 people who attended A&E were seen within four hours.

The trust’s performance overall, when waiting times for Leigh walk-in centre were included, was 63.7 per cent – placing it at the bottom of all 133 trusts in the country.

A total of 683 people attended the walk-in centre, with only nine having to wait more than four hours to be seen, a performance of 98.7 per cent.

The A&E department had already seen a significant drop in its performance during the winter months, scoring 72 per cent in February, 71.4 per cent in January and 73.1 per cent in December.

But the statistics for March 2018 shows the situation has become even worse, and more patients are waiting longer to be seen.

It is now well below the national standard of 95 per cent, a target it has not met since 2015.

However, the NHS England data shows only 76.4 per cent of patients going to major A&E departments nationwide were seen within four hours. This rose to 84.6 per cent when attendances at other units were included.

Trust bosses have repeatedly urged people to stay away from Wigan’s A&E department unless necessary and seek treatment elsewhere. As recently as Wednesday they were warning that people could face waits of up to 12 hours to see a doctor.

The long waits come despite the trust taking action to reduce waiting times, including introducing “front-door streaming”, which sees some patients sent for treatment at a new primary care centre at Christopher Home.

Greater Manchester Health And Social Care Partnership challenged A&Es to return to 90 per cent last year, and some improvements were made in Wigan, but the performance has since dropped.

The trust has previously cited a rising number of admissions over the year, especially among people over the age of 75, as one of the reasons for increased waiting times.

The NHS England data shows there were 2,873 emergency admissions to the hospital in March, with 2,338 of those via A&E. Last March there were 2,304 emergency admissions, 1,972 of which were via A&E.

No patients had to wait more than four hours from the decision to admit being made to admission last month.

Mary Fleming, director of operations and performance for the trust, said: “Performance against 18-week treatment times and national cancer standards remains consistently strong, with Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust in the top 10 per cent of performing trusts in the country.

“However, pressures on unscheduled care continues on a local, regional and national footprint.

“The hospital has seen a 10 per cent increase in patients admitted through A&E this year into one of the lowest bed bases in Greater Manchester.

“Through effective partnership working across the locality, we continue to have the lowest number of patients experiencing delays in transfer of care both regionally and nationally, along with fewer patients in an acute bed for more than seven days.

“The introduction of the primary care centre and transfer of minor injuries unit has also been successful, with around 40 per cent of eligible patients now streamed away from A&E.

“By effective collaborative working across the borough, we continue to explore ways of ensuring patients are seen in the right place at the right time for their condition. This includes looking at admission avoidance schemes which will be a priority for the Wigan urgent and emergency care board this year.”