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Nearly one in five not seen within four hours at A&E despite drop in patient numbers

PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 February 2020

Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have both fallen short of national targets for waiting times in accident and emergency  Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have both fallen short of national targets for waiting times in accident and emergency Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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Almost one in five patients requiring emergency treatment at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals were not seen within four hours, figures have revealed.

Crawford Jamieson, ESNEFT medical director, said the trust is committed to achieving national targets  Picture: PAGEPIXCrawford Jamieson, ESNEFT medical director, said the trust is committed to achieving national targets Picture: PAGEPIX

According to the latest figures released by NHS England, the hospitals - run by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - saw only 81.5% of patients seen within the time frame in January, 0.2% below the national average of 81.5% and 7.7% down compared to the 89.2% they recorded this time last year.

The figures also see the trust fall far short of the national target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours.

A decline in patients

Despite the decline in performance, the hospitals saw a decrease in the number of patients from 22,706 to 14,243, although the trust has said the number of people with complex cases needing specialist care has increased.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWNAndy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Of those patients, 4,591 visited smaller scale departments or minor injury units - with 99.7% them seen within the four hour target.

Dr Crawford Jamieson, ESNEFT medical director, said: "We are committed to constantly achieving the four-hour national access standard in the emergency departments across ESNEFT.

"We remain committed to delivering this important standard, but we do have to acknowledge there is an increase in demand for emergency and urgent healthcare at this time of year."

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds did not release their figures because of their part in a national trial into waiting times.

A spokesman for the hospital confirmed its recent CQC report - which saw them downgraded from "outstanding" to "requires improvement" - did not affect the hospital's place in the trial.

What do watchdogs say?

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of watchdog Healthwatch Suffolk said there are other indicators of what makes a good service.

Mr Yacoub said: "This downward shift in performance is indicative of a national trend, and across the country we are now also seeing A&Es considered to be inadequate - although fortunately this is not the case in Suffolk.

"In our opinion, and according to the patients and carers who we meet and interview, the four-hour target itself is only one indicator of how to assess the quality of good hospital care.

"It is more about the quality of treatment itself, the empathy that staff and clinicians show, and the presence of constant, consistent communication when you're waiting to be seen and assessed.

"It should be noted that working in the A&E department of a hospital is probably amongst the most demanding of any NHS role; patients and carers recognise this despite times when A&E departments have standing room only because of the sheer numbers waiting to be seen.

"We would encourage anyone who would like to provide insight about their experience in local A&E departments to get in touch through our website, to enhance our understanding of what is important to patients across the NHS."

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