Ipswich success, a close call for West Suffolk and an apology from Colchester – how our hospitals performed in the latest A&E waiting time report

Some of the staff in Ipswich Hospital's A&E department

Some of the staff in Ipswich Hospital's A&E department - Credit: Archant

Ipswich’s MP has said he is incredibly proud of staff at the town’s hospital after its A&E department hit waiting time targets for the fifth quarter in a row.

The only A&E department in Suffolk and north Essex to hit the target of seeing 95% of its patients in four hours or less was that at Ipswich Hospital, achieving 95.7%.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds just missed out on making the government’s required standard, recording 93.5%, while Colchester Hospital issued an apology to patients after it was revealed more than 3,000 people failed to be seen within the time limit.

And Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge last night declared a major incident after reporting “unprecedented demand” for its services since the start of the new year.

All hospitals in England have to aim to admit, transfer or discharge 95% patients who arrive at their A&E departments within four hours.

Nationally the average has fallen to 92.6%, the worst figure for a decade.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department was “showing the rest of the country how it’s done” after the latest NHS England figures were released yesterday.

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Of the 19,410 people who went to A&E in the three months ending December 28 last year only 832 were not seen within the required time.

Mr Gummer said: “I’m incredibly proud of the medical staff, the support people and the management who together have turned the hospital into one of the best performing district general hospitals in Britain,” he said.

“What a difference from a few years ago. When you look back and see financial chaos and the loss of specialist services it shows you just how far our hospital has come.

“But we are only at the end of the beginning. There is much more to do to put the hospital in the place it needs to be and I’m very excited about the future of this brilliant and loved institution.”

The number of patients who attended A&E in Ipswich last quarter was a fall from the previous three months.

During the run up to Christmas the hospital and other health organisations in Suffolk ran a campaign with this paper, called Make the Right Call, reminding people to only go to A&E in serious medical emergencies.

The initiative also advised patients of where they could go for help with less serious problems.

Hospital spokesman Jan Ingle said: “We have got a fantastic emergency department with incredible leadership in the hospital which has helped us reach this amazing standard.

“We always strive to do the very best for the people we serve and will continue to do so.

“The Make the Right Call campaign helped us tell people how to access the right care whenever they need it at the right time and in the right way.”

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital, where 3,183 of 19,180 patients missed out on being seen within four hours, issued a statement with a simple message: Sorry.

“We apologise to patients and their families for our sub-standard performance against the national standard,” the statement read.

“However, all patients are given appropriate care and our thanks go to our staff who have been working hard day and night to provide the high quality of safe care rightly expected by our patients.

“Like other hospitals, we have been very busy with many people – particularly elderly people – who are unable to cope at home, or in their usual place of residence, attending our emergency department, which has led to a rise in emergency admissions.

The last quarter included a 13-day major incident when the hospital announced it was operating at capacity.

A recent report showed an average of 40 additional patients per day were attending the hospital compared to the previous year, a 5% rise.

Extra staff had to be drafted in to cope with the problem.

The closure of some wards due to norovirus at West Suffolk Hospital had an effect on its ability to hit A&E waiting time targets, according to its chief operating officer.

Exactly 1,000 of the 15,370 patients who went to its A&E department in the three months ending on December 28 last year were not seen within four hours.

It is the only time the hospital has missed the target since the same period in 2013.

Jon Green, chief operating officer at West Suffolk Hospital, said there were several factors which had affected the department’s otherwise good performance.

“Our emergency department has performed well throughout this year, and has consistently ranked among the best in the country for seeing, treating and discharging patients within four hours,” Mr Green said.

“There are a number of reasons why our percentage for the quarter has dropped below the 95% target.

“We have been incredibly busy during the past few weeks with large numbers of very sick patients attending our emergency department while our ability to transfer patients into the main hospital has been reduced as several wards have been affected by norovirus.

“Although we have brought in extra staff and opened every available bed to help us manage these factors have had an impact on waiting times in the department.

“Despite the challenges we have faced our staff have worked hard to maintain our focus on safety and ensure everyone coming to the hospital receives the treatment they need.”

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