One in four not visiting A&E amid coronavirus fears

A&E attendances have fallen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic Picture: ARCHANT

A&E attendances have fallen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic Picture: ARCHANT

A&E visits at Suffolk’s hospitals have gone down substantially since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, new figures reveal.

NHS data shows a big drop in attendances to emergency departments across Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals from February to March.

The East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, saw overall A&E visits fall by nearly a quarter in the space of a month.

MORE: Coronavirus-related daily death toll in decline for third day runningTotal visits to the trust’s emergency departments went down from 18,858 in February to 14,554 in March – a fall of 4,304 (23%).

The figures were down by 40% compared with March 2019 at ESNEFT, dropping from 22,960 visits to 18,558 – with West Suffolk’s figure down 25% year-on-year, falling from 6,695 attendances to 5,020.

ESNEFT chief executive Nick Hulme said that on some days A&E attendance has been down 60% with departments “quieter than on Christmas Day”.

MORE: Hospital boss alarmed at quiet A&E as people avoid ‘out of fear’ of coronavirus“I am alarmed by a 60% reduction in A&E attendances, which is unheard of, even on Christmas Day when we tend to see the lowest number of attendances a year, it’s even significantly lower than that,” he said.

However, attendance for minor injuries fell by nearly 40% from 5,649 to 3,577 – with visits for more serious illnesses down by 17%, from 13,209 to 10,977.

MORE: All the latest coronavirus news in your areaAt West Suffolk, visits to A&E went down by 19% with 4,800 patients – down from 5,890 in February – attending for major ailments in March.

Minor injury attendance also fell by 21% from 279 visits to 220.

This week, Mr Hulme told the EADT daily podcast he feared people with heart problems and diabetes were staying away from A&E because they were scared of catching the coronavirus in hospital.

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“For the last 20 years of my career I’ve been encouraging people not to go to A&E, but I am concerned about this significant fall-off of people not visiting A&E,” he said.

MORE: ‘Calm before the storm’ at our hospitals as NHS staff prepare for coronavirus peak

“I am concerned people are staying at home out of fear, and I understand that.

“My worry is that those people will become so unwell that they have to come to A&E, and if that happens at the same time as the coronavirus peak, it’s a double whammy really.”

It comes as six more deaths were confirmed at the region’s hospitals yesterday.

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