‘Unprecedented’ A&E demand sees Leeds hospitals miss national waiting time targets

Leeds St James's Hospital.
Leeds St James's Hospital.
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Winter pressures have seen hospital patients in Leeds face long delays in A&E as both of the city’s main hospitals have missed the national four-hour waiting time target.

Leeds St James’s Hospital fell well below the national standard of treating 95 per cent of A&E patients within the target time for December, with emergency patients being seen within four hours in less than 84 per cent of cases.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) has warned that it still faces challenges to meet demand and has blamed “extremely high attendances” for the delays. Services ranked at level five of six in its winter action plan the week before Christmas – signalling pressures were at a “critical level”.

It is thought that much of the winter A&E burden falls on St James’s due to the fact that the hospital hosts the bulk of the city’s older people’s wards.

Nevertheless Leeds General Infirmary also failed to meet the national standard, albeit by less than one per cent. Overall the trust treated 90.6 per cent of A&E patients within four hours last month – a slight improvement on December 2014.

Julian Hartley, LTH chief executive, said: “The Christmas and New Year holiday period was particularly busy in our hospitals with extremely high attendances at our emergency departments and admissions being at unprecedented levels, particularly at St James’s.”

He said LTH was challenged by the Boxing Day floods but warned that it still faces issues.

A report to LTH’s board has described “a deterioration in performance due to winter activity which is now affecting both sides of the city”.

Suzanne Hinchliffe, chief nurse at LTH, also urged people only to visit A&E “for the most serious injuries and illnesses”.