Region bucks trend as waits fall in A&E

The accident and emergency entrance at Calderdale Royal Hospital
The accident and emergency entrance at Calderdale Royal Hospital

Fewer patients in Yorkshire are facing excessive waits for A&E treatment but latest figures confirm an upsurge in deaths from flu.

Nationally, fewer patients were dealt with within the four-hour target time in casualty units in the seven days to last Sunday.

But in Yorkshire more than half of NHS trusts hit the target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within the target.

Nevertheless continued delays at Hull Royal Infirmary meant more patients waited longer than four hours there than anywhere else in England for the second week running as only 75.6 per cent of people were dealt within the standard.

In England, 92.3 per cent of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours - the 18th week in succession that the goal of 95 per cent has been missed - according to figures released by NHS England.

Numbers of patients arriving for treatment are down on the same period last year but performance is significantly worse on the key waiting time target.

Accidents and falls linked to the cold weather contributed to an 11,000 increase in the number of people turning up at A&E compared with the previous week, which reached 401,000 in the week ending February 1, but still below the peak of 440,000 experienced before Christmas.

Meanwhile, figures from Public Health England showed “significant excess mortality” among over-65s for the eighth week in succession and among under-fives for the fourth week this year, which officials linked not only with the recent cold snap, but also with the circulation of a flu virus against which vaccines are this year providing unusually low levels of protection.

Cases of flu are now higher than the peak for the last three winters. GP consultations for severe asthma and respiratory infection also continue to increase.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “It is clear David Cameron is failing to get a grip on the Tory A&E crisis and the pressure in our hospitals.

“The Government’s plans to sort it out are not working and too many patients are still exposed to too much risk.”

British Medical Association chairman Mark Porter said: “The pressure on NHS services and staff this winter has been relentless. With a possible rise in the number of patients being treated for flu, we must ensure the NHS can act quickly to protect vulnerable patients and cope with any spike in demand.

“Pressure on emergency departments is linked to wider pressures across the NHS, which is struggling to cope with rising demand in the face of inadequate resources. You can’t address problems in one part of the health service without looking at the system as a whole.”

NHS England national director of commissioning operations, Dame Barbara Hakin, said: “With snow and colder weather across much of the country, A&E visits and admissions edged up compared to last week, with a slight impact on waiting, but we continue to admit, treat and discharge more than nine out of 10 patients within four hours.

“The cold can also contribute to heightened levels of respiratory illness - particularly among the elderly and those with long-term conditions. We would urge the elderly to stay warm, and for people to look out for elderly relatives, friends or neighbours, and make full use of pharmacists where appropriate.”

Cold weather alerts have been in place across the country since January 12.