A FLOOD of patients complaining of winter bugs meant Sheffield’s accident and emergency ward has narrowly missed its target to see patients within four hours.
Plans have now been put in place to improve waiting times as the strain on services continues.
In its quarterly report to health watchdog Monitor, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust revealed the Northern General Hospital’s A&E unit breached the national requirement to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours between October and December last year.
Richard Parker, the trust’s deputy chief operating officer, said the target was missed by just three per cent – and the breach was caused by ‘exceptionally high demand’ during the recent snowfall, Norovirus and flu outbreaks.
Hospital bosses are again urging patients with minor ailments to make an appointment with their GP, call in at a pharmacy or see a doctor at the NHS walk-in centre on Broad Lane in the city centre.
“Despite our staff working extraordinarily hard, this meant that we narrowly missed the 95 per cent target and saw 92 per cent of patients within four hours,” Mr Parker said.
“We have already taken action to try and manage this, including investing £4million to expand the A&E department and recruiting additional doctors and nurses.”
An ongoing increase in poorly older people needing care was also adding to the strain on services, Mr Parker added.
He said community services will be boosted, allowing patients to be looked after at home rather than in hospital.
“These actions will take a few months to come to fruition but they should ultimately help put us in an improved position for this winter,” Mr Parker said.
The expanded A&E unit is set for completion at the end of July.
Last December the ward was inundated with more than 360 patients in 24 hours, its busiest day in 10 years.
Stephen Hay, from Monitor, said it was ‘not acceptable’ that patients are having to wait longer. Nationally 36 per cent of foundation trusts missed the four-hour target.