Leeds patients wait longer to be seen in A&E as hospitals battle 'significant' demand

The number of patients in Leeds waiting over four hours to be seen in A&E has risen to a record high as the city’s hospitals battle “significant” demand for emergency care.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 4:45 am
Leeds General Infirmary. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Figures show in August, just 68.7 per cent of A&E patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within the four hours - an emergency care standard - far below the 95 per cent national target and the lowest level seen since at least April 2018.

This is against a backdrop of high levels of attendances at the city’s emergency departments.

Data shows the number of patients arriving at Leeds General Infirmary’s A&E was 17.3 per cent higher in August 2021 than it was, pre-Covid, in August 2019.

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St James' Hospital, Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty

Children’s A&E attendances were also 18.2 per cent higher than they were in August 2019.

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In August 2021, 20.3 per cent of A&E patients at LGI and St James ended up being admitted - equating to around 130 admissions a day.

The figures were published in Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s latest performance report to the board, which said "substantive recruitment" was ongoing for the urgent care management team, due to be completed by October 2021.

LTHT’s chief executive Julian Hartley. Picture: James Hardisty

The report also detailed the situation regarding waiting lists at the hospitals, with the total number of patients waiting for treatment now standing at 70,038 as of August 2021, an increase of 2,068 on the previous month.

Of those, 3,074 had waited over 52 weeks and 262 had waited over two years.

The report says underlying issues include: “A combination of Covid-19 admissions and critical care staffing availability [which] has continued to limit the number of elective cases completed that require post-operative critical care beds.”

Leeds hospitals are facing 'significant' demand for emergency care.

It said outpatient capacity, which had increased between March and June, had decreased in July “due to staff shortages due to sickness and isolation”.

Reduced face-to-face capacity has also created backlogs in specialties where physical examination or testing is required.

The percentage of patients seen within 14 days of a GP referral for suspected cancer, also remains low at 70.4, below the 93 per cent standard and ranking LTHT 125 out of 135 trusts.

But the report said since March 2021, there had been “significant peaks” in weekly referrals “to a level we have never experienced before”.

However the national standard of 96 per cent of cancer patients receiving their first treatment within 31 days was met by LTHT in May 2021 “for the first time since October 2020” and improvements have been made in the numbers of patients receiving treatment within 62 days.

In his report to board, the LTHT’s chief executive Julian Hartley, said the last two months has seen “significant demand” on the trust’s services and praised the “exemplary” efforts of staff.

He said: “We continue to have high numbers of Covid inpatients and admissions, averaging between 80 to 100 during August and September.

“Attendances to and admissions from our A&E departments have been significant and above average for this time of year.

“Our colleagues in general practice, social care, community healthcare and mental health are experiencing similar challenges and there is significant pressure on health and care services, which is likely to continue as we move into winter.

“I am hugely grateful to our staff who continue to apply great effort and expertise in providing their best quality care for patients.”

He added: “This period has seen increasing focus on elective recovery, following the announcement of additional funding from Government for the NHS to support tackling waiting lists and providing more timely treatment for patients.”

He said work is underway across the trust’s clinical specialities and planned care teams to maximise efficiency, increase capacity and test new innovations and approaches “to tackle the backlog over the next 12 months and beyond”.

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