Longer waits for emergency admissions at East Lancashire hospitals

More patients are being forced to wait four hours or longer for emergency admissions at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, figures show.
The Royal Blackburn HospitalThe Royal Blackburn Hospital
The Royal Blackburn Hospital

Healthwatch England acknowledged the pressure the NHS is under as it deals with the impact of coronavirus, but in "ordinary times" the increasing number of long waits "should not be accepted as normal".

It reflects a rise across England, where a record number of patients waited four hours in A&E departments for the month of February.

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NHS Digital figures show that 764 patients were forced to wait for at least four hours at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust in February.

This was an increase of 2% on February last year, when just 751 patients waited this long.

The total proportion of patients seen within four hours by the A&E department has also increased from 78.3% to 80.4% in just one year, but still puts the trust below the NHS operational standard of 95% of patients being admitted, transferred or discharged.

Over the same time frame, the number of emergency admissions to the trust rose by 7%, from 4913 in February last year to 5,249 this February.

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Across England, the number of patients waiting more than fours hours between the decision to admit them and being admitted increased by 11%, from 70,815 in February last year to 78,646 in the same month this year. This is the highest figure for the month of February since records began in 2011 – when just 7,872 patients in England waited for more than four hours.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at thinktank King’s Fund, said: "With the NHS under unprecedented pressure, this target (of 95%) has been consistently missed in recent years and this winter has seen A&E performance deteriorate further.

“While the recent investment announced for NHS services is welcome, the lack of action on social care and delays to the publication of a national NHS workforce strategy are significant barriers to real progress. Until the funding and workforce challenges facing the health and care system are addressed, patients will unfortunately expect to wait longer for the care they need.”

A Healthwatch England spokesman said people understand the pressure the NHS is under at the moment, as doctors and nurses manage the impact of coronavirus.

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He added: “We also know from our research that waiting times alone are not the only factor that affects people’s experiences of A&E. The quality of care, the level of communication, and hospital facilities all play a central role in how people feel.

“But in ordinary times, the increasing number of long waits in A&E should not be accepted as normal as they are not good for patients or staff.”

An NHS spokesman said the NHS will "flex its response" in line with escalation plans for coronavirus, making it particularly important that the public follow the recommended health advice.

"NHS staff have pulled out all the stops over the last three months, helping people and preparing for the spread of coronavirus while dealing with record demand and high levels of flu and norovirus, aided by the fact that thanks to almost 7,800 more nurses being available, hospitals were able to open over a thousand more beds," he added.