Ipswich: More patients waiting longer than six hours to be treated at Ipswich Hospital’s A&E department

RISING numbers of patients are facing waits of more than six hours at Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department as it struggles to cope with the volume of work, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

New figures reveal that in September, 90 patients visiting A&E had to wait longer than six hours for treatment – the national standard is four hours.

That compares to 58 patients in August, 61 in July, 53 in June, 19 in May and 36 in April, although it represents a small proportion of 220 patients the department sees on average each day.

There has also been a continuing decline in how quickly ambulances are able to drop off patients at A&E because the department is so busy. This, in turn, is keeping ambulances off the road longer than necessary.

Last night, one campaigner stressed the issue was not the fault of hard-working staff, but said a six-hour wait for patients was too long.

Health campaigner Prue Rush told the EADT that patients must also accept some responsibility, as she called for more education on which NHS services to access.

She said: “A six-hour wait, unless there are exceptional circumstances, is too long.

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“They have lost the Riverside Clinic [minor injuries unit] but they should not be muddling the two sets of patients into one.

“We need more education about which health services to access at what times. People are ringing 999 for things beyond trivial and then we hear about ambulances not getting to heart attack or stroke patients on time.

“We need to stop frightening people into going to hospital.” But Mrs Rush added that staffing problems were likely to be part of the problem, and called for more flexibility in drafting in nurses and doctors from other parts of the trust at busy periods.

Meanwhile, hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle said the sheer volume of patients, combined with more complex cases and more people accessing the department since the minor injuries unit relocated to the Heath Road site from the Riverside Clinic in July, has resulted in greater pressure on the service.

Mrs Ingle told the EADT: “We have been doing a lot of work to understand what lies behind the figures.”

She said they had recruited more nurses since September and added that when the GP out-of-hours service – which is currently located at the Riverside Clinic – moves to the hospital site before Christmas, it is hoped it will relieve some of the pressures.

“Hopefully, we will see more joined-up working where people coming in through the front door for A&E who have more minor complaints will be able to be seen by the out-of-hours team,” she said.

Mrs Ingle conceded that like hospitals across the country, the trust had struggled to attract middle-grade doctors who were a “key part of the care given to patients”.

An East of England Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “Obviously, any hand-over delays at A&E mean time off the road for our crews so they are of concern to the ambulance service but we are continuing to work with hospitals, the Strategic Health Authority and our commissioners to proactively tackle the issue to aim to hand over in good time and therefore free more crews to respond more quickly to calls.”