A&E bottleneck hits hospitals

Huge numbers of people arriving at A&E are putting pressure on Norfolk hospitals and forcing operations to be cancelled - and the problem could be because people do not have faith in out-of-hours services.

Huge numbers of people arriving at A&E are putting pressure on Norfolk hospitals and forcing operations to be cancelled - and the problem could be because people do not have faith in out-of-hours services.

NHS Norfolk's board meeting heard that pressures on A&E are making it harder to meet the target for treating people within 18 weeks of referral. At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, A&E attendances over the last three weeks are up 6.7pc on the same time last year, and 50-100 more patients a week are being admitted to a ward after arriving at A&E. Last week alone 89 operations were cancelled. The QEH has also had a rise in A&E attendances in recent weeks, which has put extra pressure on beds and led to planned operations being cancelled. At Tuesday's meeting, board members agreed that people needed to be discouraged from going to A&E unnecessarily, and also that GPs did not always need to refer patients to A&E.

Patient representative Penny Sutton said: “There is a common perception that the rise in A&E attendances is due to the systemic failure of the out-of-hours services. I don't know whether this is the case but that is the perception. Can we have assurance that this will be looked at?”

Finance director David Stonehouse said: “There are anecdotal comments that some people are pitching up because of a lack of capacity at certain times in the out-of-hours service. I think it would be premature to badmouth the service at this stage without hard evidence. You can have our reassurance that these issues are being looked at.”


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Chairman Sheila Childerhouse said: “We need to make sure they have confidence in the out-of-hours service.”

Nick Morton, from the East of England Ambulance Service, which runs the GP out-of-hours service for the NHS Norfolk area, said afterwards: “I want to reassure people that the service provides high quality patient care and that our patient surveys routinely show an excellent level of patient satisfaction.

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“Having our out of hours service integrated with the ambulance and district nurse on-call services means that we are able to deal more effectively with our patients, many of whom are managed at home rather than needing to go to hospital. This makes a major contribution to reducing admissions to hospital.”

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