Hospital apologies as A&E waiting targets

Banbury Cake: Paul Brennan Paul Brennan

A HOSPITAL boss has apologised after figures showed accident and emergency waiting targets had only been hit once since late October.

Paul Brennan said extra cash is being put into tackling the problem as more people attend A&E during the winter months.

A Government standard demands hospital authorities admit, transfer or discharge at least 95 per cent of all A&E attendees in four hours.

But since October 21, this has only been hit once, in the week ending November 17, at the John Radcliffe and Banbury’s Horton General Hospital.

Between October 21 and the week up to Friday, December 13, 1,405 visitors to A&E were not admitted within four hours Mr Brennan, director of clinical services at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are sorry when patients wait longer than the target time.”

But he added: “It is important to understand that patients would not necessarily have waited without being seen and would undergo assessment and diagnosis before being transferred when it is clinically appropriate to do so.”

Hospitals have struggled with a rise in demand – emergency in-patient admissions have risen 10 per cent since 2009 – with bosses warning many could get help from other NHS services.

Figures show only about a quarter of those who attend county A&E departments result in an emergency admission, which are prioritised by medics.

Mr Brennan said: “While we have not quite achieved the target of 95 per cent in every week, at least 90 per cent of patients arriving at our emergency departments are assessed, treated and either discharged home or admitted to a ward within four hours.”

The trust is measured quarterly and the 95 per cent target was met in July to September. Overall, the figure is 94.2 per cent for October to December.

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Mr Brennan said the trust and social care organisations such as Oxfordshire County Council are “working hard to manage the ongoing pressures and to lessen the impact” on A&E.

An extra £10.2m from the Government is going on extra staff, such as therapy support in A&E, he said, while 65 extra beds have been opened and funds are being used “to support people in their own home”.

He said: “It’s vital that our emergency departments are able to concentrate on patients who are really unwell.”

Other services, including GPs and pharmacies, should be considered by residents, he said, particularly for existing health problems made worse in the cold.

Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith said: “I know the hospital understands very well that it is unacceptable for people to be waiting more than four hours, and I fully support the staff who are working so hard to make sure patients get the treatment they need.”

Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said he suspected people were going to A&E “when they think it may be difficult to contact their GP practice, or if they suspect they can’t get a prompt appointment with their GP practice”.

Victoria Couling, Royal College of Nursing officer for Oxfordshire, said: “Emergency departments need the resources and staff to deal with a high level of demand all year round, but it is particularly important that winter pressures do not tip hospitals over the edge.”

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