PORTSMOUTH North MP Penny Mordaunt is to meet secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt after the worst figures for A&E waiting times in the city for months.
Figures released by NHS England yesterday show Portsmouth NHS Hospitals Trust (PHT) – which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham – saw, treated or discharged 71.6 per cent of patients within four hours in October – the worst rate in the country.
The government target is 95 per cent and the trust has missed that for two years.
In September the figure was just under 80 per cent.
The trust says it has been ‘exceptionally busy’ in recent months and is sometimes treating up to 360 patients a day in an emergency department designed to see about 250.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘The Secretary of State has recently reviewed QA’s performance against these targets and I will be meeting him on Tuesday next week regarding this. QA has acted to improve its bed availability but it and other health services in the area do need to do more.
‘In the past QA has managed to improve its performance in other areas, MRSA and infections for example. It needs a swift and concerted effort supported by community services in this area to dramatically improve A&E too.’
Earlier this week The News revealed that South Central Ambulance Service had devised a nine-point scheme to ease the pressure on hospitals as they see an influx of patients during the winter.
It includes improving access to mental health care, employing and training more specialist paramedic roles and having more experts manning the phones.
The proportion of critical calls responded to within eight minutes by South Central Ambulance Service has improved for October.
It is up to 70.07 per cent from 68.7 per cent, in September. The target is 75 per cent.
The figures come as NHS research body the Nuffield Trust warned that the health service will struggle to cope over winter because of high bed occupancy rates and a lack of funding.
Just 3.6 per cent of patients took up over a third of all bed capacity in acute hospitals in England last year, according to the Nuffield Trust.
It said the figures help explain why the NHS still suffered a winter crisis last year, ‘despite receiving extra funding from NHS England of almost £700m specifically to deal with pressures caused by winter’.
A PHT spokesperson said: ‘In recent months our emergency department has been exceptionally busy, with a huge and increasing number of very sick, frail and elderly patients requiring urgent care.
‘We are seeing a sustained increase in attendances, often with more than 300, and sometimes nearing 360, patients a day.
‘In context, our emergency department was designed to see around 250 patients a day.
‘We are working hard with NHS partners to reduce the number of patients that do not need to be in an acute bed for their continuing health or social care, to enable us to safely discharge patients into community provision.
‘We would ask patients to think carefully about their urgent care needs.
‘The emergency department is for emergencies such as loss of consciousness, severe chest pain, breathing difficulties, serious accidents and severe bleeding.’
Councillor John Ferrett is chairman of the health overview and scrutiny panel in Portsmouth.
He said: ‘It’s clearly very disappointing and something that we hoped, as a panel, would be improving. We did not expect to see it getting worse.’
He said he hoped that improvements to the walk-in service at St Mary’s would ease pressure on the number of people going to A&E as a first port of call.
Alex Berry chief commissioning officer of Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group, which funds PHT, said she is aware of how much work needs to be done to reach targets and added: ‘Obviously we are disappointed with the figures.
‘We have put a great deal of added investment into PHT and the health system to try to improve performance and all the partners are continuing to work together in close collaboration with PHT.’