Surge in A&E attendance puts demand on services at Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals

Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital - Credit: Archant

An average of almost 20 more patients are turning up to casualty at Ipswich Hospital compared to two years ago, new figures have revealed.

The hospital has seen a surge in the number of patients seeking urgent care – with 80,352 passing through the doors last year, compared to 73,435 in 2012 and 77,547 in 2013.

The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act and show a continuing year-on-year increase in demand on accident and emergency (A&E) services.

The hospital said there were no obvious solutions for slowing the trend, but that measures were in place to cope with the challenge and avoid unnecessary admissions.

As well as a rise in attendance, the level of care required by those visiting A&E has more acute, with people living longer and suffering more complex health problems.

Despite facing an average of 220 patients walking into A&E each day last year, the hospital said it remained dedicated to delivering safe, compassionate care by maintaining close working relationships across departments.

Attendances have risen by almost half since 2008/09, when the total was 53,604.

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But despite the “unprecedented” rise – particularly over the last 12 months – the hospital met its target of seeing 95% of patients in four hours or less between October and December.

Spokeswoman Jan Ingle said: “Demand in the last year has been unprecedented, not just at hospital but across the entire health economy, with more people needing more care. People are living longer, with more complex problems.

“There are no obvious answers, but the evidence shows that most people are making the right choice when they need immediate and urgent care.

“The last year has been exceptionally busy, not just in terms of numbers but also the level of care needed.

“Our priority is to deliver safe, compassionate care by working together across the whole hospital.”

This week, chief executive Nick Hulme said the hospital would eventually struggle to cope with demand unless the health and social care system was adapted for the number of people living into and beyond their 90s.

Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals also acknowledged pressure from growing A&E attendance. Across the three hospitals, the number has risen by 15,099 since 2012.

In November, Colchester General declared a “major incident” when it reached capacity.

A spokesman said the number continued to rise year-on-year, with the town among the fastest growing in England, and Tendring home to high numbers of older people.

He said: “Attendance at our emergency department has more than doubled since it opened at Colchester General Hospital in the mid-1980s and we have had to increase the workforce and physically expand the department to meet the demand. “However, if people have more minor health issues, they are more likely to be treated more appropriately and faster at alternative NHS services.”

Jon Green, chief operating officer with West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our emergency department has been placed under increasing pressure in recent years as growing numbers of people attend for treatment.

“During this winter in particular, we have seen large numbers of very sick patients coming to our emergency department with a variety of different complaints, including a lot of people with respiratory problems.

“Despite these challenges, our staff are working hard to maintain our focus on quality and safety and ensure that everyone coming to the hospital receives the treatment they need.”

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