Hospital trust has 'struggled' over holiday period

Dr Kanchan Rege joined Peterborough City Hospital team to assist with care of Covid-19 patients

Dr Kanchan Rege, medical director for North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust joined the team on B14 at Peterborough City Hospital as “Consultant 2” to assist with the care of patients diagnosed with Covid-19 on the ward. - Credit: North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust

The North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT) which runs Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Peterborough City Hospital, and Stamford and Rutland Hospital, has struggled over the holiday period.

Newly released data shows that it had challenges in a number of areas.

Ambulance queues: the number of patients waiting more than 30 minutes to be handed over to A&E staff in the week 20-26 December 2021 was 37 per cent of 956 arrivals.

This compares to the England average of 13 per cent and the trust’s own performance of 35 per cent two years ago.

A&E waits: the number of patients waiting longer than four hours in November 2021 was 39 per cent of 16,405 attendances.

This compares to the England average of 26 per cent and the trust’s own figures which show an average of 27 per cent of 14,148 attendances two years ago.

Hospital bed waits: the number of patients without a bed on a ward within four hours of being admitted in November 2021 was 32 per cent of 3,165 emergency admissions.

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This compares to the England average of the same 32 per cent, but the trust’s own figures for two years ago were just 16 per cent of 3,724 emergency admissions.

The number of people coming to hospital ill with Covid is well above what the NHS would normally get for all types of respiratory infections combined – and the numbers are rising.

How high they will go is still uncertain. Much depends on whether there will be a big wave of older, frail patients being admitted if Omicron infections move from younger people into older age groups.

Phil Walmsley, chief operating officer at NWAFT, said: “We have seen an increase in the number of ambulances attending our emergency departments at this time of year.

"We are addressing this by expanding the ability to take patients from ambulances.

“We are also working with external partners to support faster discharges for patients once they are ready to go home, which will in turn reduce the waiting times for those patients who require a bed.

“Like many hospitals, we are experiencing higher-than-usual levels of staff sickness at the moment due to the increase in community infection rates.

“However, we have robust escalation plans in place, including redeploying staff to areas that need additional support, to ensure that we can manage this situation.

“I would like to apologise for the frustrations that this may cause some of our patients.

"I would also like to thank our staff for stepping up to fulfil additional shifts to ensure we can minimise any rota gaps during this time.”

About the data:

Ambulance queues – When patients arrive at hospital by ambulance, they should be handed over within 15 minutes.

This data shows the proportion of ambulance patients who waited 30 minutes or more, in the week shown.

It comes from daily situation reports which are published weekly during the winter in England.

As this is fast-turnaround data, the NHS says only minimal validation can be carried out, but it is considered fit for purpose.

A&E waits – Patients at A&E should be seen within four hours of arrival.

This data shows the proportion of patients attending A&E who waited longer than four hours to be treated, discharged, or admitted.

This data is published monthly for England and Wales and weekly for Scotland.

Northern Ireland publishes its data quarterly and Winter 2021 is not yet available.

Bed waits and occupancy – If a patient at A&E needs to be admitted, the wait from decision to admit to being given a bed on a ward is recorded in England.

The bed waits figure is the proportion of patients admitted via A&E who waited longer than four hours for a ward bed.