Ipswich: Hospital’s emergency department deals with 60 more people a day
The number of people turning up at Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department (ED) has soared by an extra 60 patients a day compared to four years ago, it has emerged.
New figures from Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust’s board papers reveal daily visits to the ED have increased from 166 in 2010 to 220 in 2014.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter last night said the increased pressure was down to factors including an ageing population and changes to out-of-hours care.
The North Ipswich and Central Suffolk MP said: “The problems have been going on since 2004/05 as the decision was made by the previous government to change the contracts so patients were unable to see their GP out of hours.
“That immediately put a lot more pressure on emergency departments.
“What has made it worse is the fact that many people are now living longer. Older people are choosing to retire to Suffolk as well as it is a good place to live.
“That in itself brings additional demand because older people can often have a number of medical conditions such as diabetes, dementia and heart disease and if you have people with complex care needs, they can become very unwell and tend to arrive at A&E.”
According to the figures, around 7,000 people attended the ED, via ambulance and as a walk-in patient, at the hospital in 2013/14 but the predicted numbers for 2014/15 are forecast at around 7,800 visits.
Dr Poulter also said a lot of people do not know where to get out-of-hours care, after the former minor injuries unit at the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich was closed in July 2012, which has resulted in the numbers turning up at Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department rising.
To help alleviate some of the pressures, Dr Poulter has suggested that GP surgeries become a “little more flexible” in their opening hours.
He added: “That’s something I know some of our surgeries in Ipswich are beginning to do. It gives people the time to see their GP after work. The government has also negotiated that over-75s now have to have a nominated GP with a plan put in place about how they are going to be cared for around the clock. So it’s not the case that the result will always be to turn up at A&E.”
The hospital also has to deal with seasonal pressures, with the number of people expected to visit the department predicted to peak during the summer months.
An Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman said: “Demand for healthcare across Suffolk, as indeed across the country, is clearly increasing. Our aim is to provide safe, compassionate, high-quality care at all times.
“It also helps us immensely if people do make the right call and access the healthcare service at the right time. That can be from actually, if you don’t feel well, visiting your pharmacy, ringing 111 through to coming to the emergency department.
“We are there for everyone but if people can help us it means we have got more time and more resources for those who need us most.”