Wigan hospitals step up efforts to offer seven-day care

Dr Arya
Dr Arya

Wigan’s hospital bosses are taking action after discovering they were failing to meet standards for seven-day working.

The NHS wants hospitals to ensure patients receive the same level of care every day.

But a report presented to the board of directors at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust showed it was not fully meeting targets in two areas.

These related to all emergency admissions being seen within 14 hours and access to diagnostic tests.

Plans are now being put in place to address the areas highlighted.

The report shows the number of patients seeing a consultant within 14 hours on weekdays increased, from 61 per cent in March 2016 to 89 per cent in June 2018, just shy of the 90 per cent target.

While it also increased at weekends, peaking at 94 per cent in September 2017, the latest figures show a drop to 71 per cent.

The audit was based on a sample from a week in June.

Dr Sanjay Arya, the trust’s medical director, said: “We looked at that weekend when we did the survey and it was one of the worst weekends we had due to operational pressures. It was a very busy Saturday.

“What we are going to do now is we are going to pick a Saturday in the past and see if the story was similar or as good as the 94 per cent in September 2017. It was only one weekend in 52.”

He said 22 of the 146 patients that weekend were not seen by a consultant within 14 hours, but the majority were seen within 18 to 20 hours.

Hospital chiefs are going to look at the order in which patients are seen by consultants to ensure those approaching 14 hours do not have to wait.

Currently, consultants see those who are most seriously ill first, followed by patients ready to go home and then all other patients, but those who have been waiting longer to see a consultant could become the third category.

They also plan to speak to the IT department to find out if there is any way of flagging up how long patients have been waiting.

The trust also failed to meet the standard for access to six diagnostic tests within certain times for patients at weekends.

While it scored 100 per cent on weekdays, it was only 83 per cent in June, though this was an increase from 68 per cent in March 2017.

Dr Arya said this was due to staffing levels meaning echocardiography - heart scans - were provided at weekends by employees willing to be called into work as a “goodwill gesture”, rather than as a formal arrangement.

He said a business case for more staff was being put together and they hoped to meet the targets for six days initially, then seven.

Dr Arya said: “It is a highly specialised test and we don’t want to overwork them. There is a need for this group of staff in every hospital in Greater Manchester. They are very keen to work with us and we achieved 83 per cent even though we don’t have a formal arrangement.”

Despite the trust failing to meet these targets, Dr Arya said patients should not be concerned.

He said: “I would like to reassure my patients, as the medical director, that those patients who really need these tests and really need a review by a consultant, whether it’s Saturday, Sunday or a weekday, they will get it.”