WAITS FOR treatment in a Yorkshire A&E unit were the worst in England last week, new figures have revealed.
Only 71.2 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour target at Hull Royal Infirmary in the seven days to last Sunday.
The hospital has been battling major pressures for weeks and at the height of the crisis at the beginning of January. The Yorkshire Post can reveal it even considered diverting sick patients 60 miles for treatment in Leeds.
Overall, waiting times in A&E improved across the country for the third week in a row, with 93 per cent of patients dealt with in the target time. Only five out of 14 trusts in Yorkshire met the 95 per cent standard at Bradford, Airedale, Barnsley, Harrogate and Sheffield Children’s hospitals.
But concerns are continuing to grow over levels of bed blocking in hospitals by patients fit to leave but unable to find suitable alternative care at home or in the community. A total of 4,300 hospital beds were unavailable in England last week, higher than at any point this winter or last. In December, delayed discharges reached their highest ever level.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been joined by other Cabinet Ministers to become actively involved in tackling the issue, highlighted by Labour criticisms the problems has been worsened by heavy cuts to council social care.
Last night it emerged NHS and social care chiefs in the Vale of York have agreed to deliver a 50 per cent cut in delayed discharges in the four weeks to February 12. Figures show patients spent more than 1,300 extra days last month in beds at York NHS Trust, which runs major hospitals in York and Scarborough. Some 55 per cent of the delays were blamed on local councils compared with 26 per cent nationally.
Yesterday Jacqueline Myers, chief operating officer at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The trust has experienced significant pressure across its emergency department (ED) and other services recently which have led to difficulties in discharging patients and meeting the four-hour ED target.
“Senior doctors, nurses and managerial staff are meeting on a daily basis to ensure we are optimising our response to the current peak in demand for acute medical care. As a result of this and a strong focus on discharging medically fit patients we are beginning to see the situation improve for emergency patients.”
A new £7m emergency unit would soon open as well as an elderly assessment unit for patients needing rapid treatment before returning home.
She added: “We are also working closely with our community partners, the community health providers and the local authorities to ensure delays for patients requiring support at home or a community bed are minimised.”
NHS England director of operations and delivery, Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, said it was determined to cut delayed transfers of care, with £37m in extra cash for local authorities. She added: “A&E performance continues to climb. It is encouraging for the third week running that waiting times have improved.”