Waiting times in Croydon University Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department have risen to their highest level in four years, according to figures released last week.
1 in 5 patients had to wait more than four hours to be treated. Only 79.4 percent of patients at A&E waited fewer than four hours from their arrival to their admission, discharge or transfer. This is the worst performance since monthly figures began in 2015.
With populations rising and people living longer, immense pressure is being felt by the NHS. Patients are waiting long hours to be admitted to A&E and staff are under extreme pressure to get all patients seen within four hours, healthcare campaigners say, describing the situation as a ‘crisis’.
Ambulances have reportedly been queued up outside hospitals to deliver patients, sometimes for over an hour, such is the pressure on emergency doctors and nurses inside.
4,414 patients were forced to wait more than four hours in the month of December 2019. Of those, 788 patients spent over four hours waiting for a ward bed, even after doctors said they needed to be admitted.
In the ambulance service, 25 percent of Croydon ambulances in the first week of this year had to wait over 30 minutes to handover patients to A&E. 58 of those had to wait for more than an hour.
The NHS target for handover times from ambulances to the Emergency Department is 15 minutes.
Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said:
“Nurses fear patient safety is being compromised by having to care for people in corridors and on trolleys.
“The new government must begin work urgently to address the underlying causes of the current workforce crisis and recruit and retain more nurses, as committed to during the election campaign”
Lee McPhail, Chief Operating Officer at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, said:
“We have seen a 12% increase in the number of seriously ill and injured patients cared for in our Emergency Department compared to last year (Dec 2018-2019). Last month, we treated 79% of patients within four hours, however every patient is clinically assessed within 15 minutes of arrival and we always prioritise our sickest patients, which means those with minor ailments may need to wait longer.
Year on year, we are seeing an increase in demand for our services across the Trust and in our community services. “
Healthwatch is a body which scrutinises health and social care and how people access services in Croydon. It is independent from the council and the NHS.
ELL spoke to Gordon Kay, the manager of Healthwatch in Croydon. He said the challenge regarding A&E waiting times is one of supply and demand. “In some cases there are people turning up to A&E who could have gone to urgent care centres, GPs or rung 111.
“The challenge is that some people turn up and don’t need to be there.
“We work with the hospital; they are really trying their hardest to beat the target.”
The issue of communication was key in easing the strain on Croydon A&E, Mr Kay added. Many people were unaware of the alternative places they could receive medical help, he said and more needed to be done to publicise them.