Key NHS targets being missed in Sheffield

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
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Key targets for Sheffield hospitals are being missed as the city’s NHS comes under increasing strain.

Casualty waiting times, ambulance response times and patient handover delays are all currently at unacceptable levels.

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

Hospital bosses today said they are experiencing a ‘huge rise’ in demand for emergency care.

Dr David Throssell, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust medical director, said: “We have been experiencing a huge rise in demand for emergency care over the last month.

“This has inevitably meant some patients with minor illnesses or injuries have waited longer, because our efforts have rightly needed to focus on the urgent patients.

“We have, however, still seen the majority of our patients within four hours or less.

“The issue is not just about the number of people coming to accident and emergency, it is also the significant increase in the number of sick people who need to be admitted to a ward.

“To put this into context, last December we admitted about 3,500 people from A&E, this December we admitted more than 4,000”

A report to Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body today said efforts to meet Government targets of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours has ‘deteriorated significantly’ in the last few weeks, meaning the target was missed in the last quarter, from October to December.

In the last week, just 82.4 per cent of patients have been seen in casualty within the time limit.

The pattern has been repeated across the region, with Rotherham Hospital, Barnsley Hospital and Chesterfield Royal Hospital also failing to meet the 95 per cent target in the past week.

However, Sheffield Children’s Hospital has managed to beat the requirement, with 98.8 per cent of patients seen in time.

Charlie Carruth. regional organiser at trade union Unison, warned staff are struggling to cope with demands being placed on them

He said: “Staff are over-stretched and working to their maximum. In A&E, it has been particularly difficult over the last few weeks and months.”

He said he was concerned to see A&E departments under such pressure during a generally mild winter.

Mr Carruth said: “Imagine if we had a winter like we did three years ago. The Government has to do something about it – they are not even funding the NHS enough to keep it standing still.

“Something has got to give. They have to address the shortfalls in the system.”

He said cuts to adult social care services by local authorities that have had their budgets slashed are having an impact on admissions.

He said: “The cuts in public services that have already happened and are going to continue to happen are not something in isolation.

“In Sheffield, we have been fighting against changes to the provision of support living and care for vulnerable people.

“These cuts will continue. It will inevitably have an impact.

“The danger is you see people being brought back into hospital, because there is not support for them in the community.”

The CCG report also reveals ambulance response times targets for the area are also not being met.

It said in November that the pattern of Yorkshire Ambulance Service being unable to reach 75 per cent of the most seriously-ill patients within eight minutes continued.

The service is on course for fines of almost £4 million for the current financial year for missing the response times from CCGs across Yorkshire.

Delays in paramedics handing over patients to the care of casualty staff ‘reduced slightly’ in October.

However, more than 1,100 patients had waits of more than 30 minutes in being transferred from ambulances to A&E wards, with nearly 250 experiencing waits of over an hour.

Dr David Macklin, ambulance trust executive director of operations, said paramedics have been under ‘immense pressure’ over the last few weeks.

He said: “As a result of unprecedented demand and more recently the adverse weather, requests for help from those with potentially life-threatening illnesses or injuries has increased by almost 30 per cent.

“We would like to thank members of the public for their support during this challenging winter period and praise the tremendous efforts of our staff who are working tirelessly to provide life-saving services and emergency care for our patients.”