Over 300 Leeds patients faced 12-hour waits for emergency hospital treatment last month

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More than 300 patients had to wait more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital for emergency treatment in Leeds last month, stark new figures have revealed.

Across the country, a record 22,506 had to wait more than 12 hours in emergency departments in England in March between a decision to admit and actually being admitted.

At Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which has emergency departments at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital, 356 patients faced waits of over 12 hours.

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Clare Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have seen an increase in Emergency Department attendances from people who are acutely unwell. This places additional pressure on our teams to see patients in a timely way, despite our ambulance handovers remaining the fastest in the region.

Ambulances outside Leeds General Infirmary earlier this year.Ambulances outside Leeds General Infirmary earlier this year.
Ambulances outside Leeds General Infirmary earlier this year.

“We are working collaboratively with citywide colleagues in the NHS, social care and with third sector partners to safely discharge patients who no longer need treatment in hospital, to free up beds for those that need them.

“There are 147 patients with Covid-19 in our hospitals and I am grateful to our teams for their commitment to managing the challenges that this brings when admitting patients from our Emergency Departments.

“Patients with life-threatening illness or injury are prioritised for treatment in our Emergency Departments. If you need help, please do come forward for the care you need by using NHS 111, or if it’s an emergency, dial 999 or go to your nearest A&E.

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“If you are unsure which healthcare service you need, please call NHS 111, where a trained clinical advisor will be able to direct you to the most appropriate service.”

The new figures come just weeks after six A&E departments in Yorkshire urged patients to stay away unless they ‘really need’ to visit.

On Sunday, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said there were “four big inter-related challenges” facing the NHS - the ongoing impact of Covid, urgent and emergency care pressures, backlogs and staff shortages.

He said on Twitter that in an NHS Providers board meeting last week, health leaders “agreed this was the longest most sustained period of NHS pressure they had seen in their careers”.

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He said there were “much higher levels of Covid prevalence” than had been predicted, with 15,000 patients with Covid in English hospital beds on April 14 - almost double the 8,000 seen six weeks ago.

Mr Hopson said while the vaccine programme meant serious illnesses and fatalities from Covid were lower, the “operational consequences” were the same for hospitals.

He added there were major pressures on emergency care, including “worryingly high levels of delays in answering 999 calls, conveying patients to hospital, ambulance handover delays outside hospitals, 12 hour waits in A&E and delays for urgent mental health care”.

'No illusions on scale of challenge'

NHS England said emergency departments remain under significant pressure with 2.17m people attending A&E in March, a spike of nearly 20 per cent month to month and the highest March ever.

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That came on top of staff dealing with 170,000 inpatients with COVID during winter, and 3.7 million days being lost due to COVID-related staff absences in the same period. But NHS bosses highlighted cuts to the numbers of people waiting the longest for hospital treatment despite the other pressures.

A total of 23,281 people in England were waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of February, down slightly from 23,778 at the end of January.

NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Nobody should be under any illusion about how tough a job NHS staff have on their hands, balancing competing priorities and maintaining high quality patient care.

“Despite pressure on various fronts and the busiest winter ever for the NHS, long waits fell as staff continue to tackle two-year waits by July thanks to the innovative approaches to care they are now adopting – from same day hip replacements to dedicated mobile hubs for operations.”