A&E waiting times at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth are among the longest in England

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ALMOST 4,000 patients were left waiting at Queen Alexandra Hospital’s A&E for four hours or more last month, after a ‘significant spike’ in demand.

The Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Cosham hospital, was rated among the 10 slowest NHS trusts in the country for January this year, with only 69.4 per cent of people seen within four hours.

This was significantly below the national target of 95 per cent attendance in four hours as well as the national average of 84.4 per cent for the month.

Figures released by NHS England also showed that a total of 3,858 attendances after four hours at QA were for ‘major’ problems.

It comes after the trust spent months preparing for the winter period with 12 additional beds, an extra temporary CT scanner and rapid flu assessments provided.

But Paul Bytheway, the chief operating officer at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, admitted this was not enough to meet the ‘unprecedented’ rise in demand.

QA Hospital

QA Hospital

‘We had planned for an increase in demand during December and January,’ he said.

‘However, in January we saw a significant spike in demand on our emergency department (ED), which is reflected across the NHS nationally. This increase, along with a rise in emergency admissions, has led to increased pressure on ED.

‘Last month more than 12,600 people attended our ED – 407 a day on average.

‘More than 1,500 additional patients attended ED last month compared to January last year – an increase of almost 14 per cent year-on-year.’

The four-hour target for A&Es was introduced in 2004, with waiting times reaching their worst level nationally this January.

As a result 330,000 patients across England were left waiting longer than they should.

Waiting times at QA were better between October and December last year with 78.1 per cent of people seen within four hours.

For Roger Batterbury, vice chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, the situation was ‘disappointing'. He said: ‘Healthwatch Portsmouth was disappointed to hear that the QA was only able to attend to 69.4 per cent of patients within four hours of their arriving at A&E in January.

‘We were told in October by the chief executive of the trust that plans were in place from December to reduce the chance of A&E not being able to cope with the higher demands for care over the winter.  We will soon be publishing our report on a Walk Thru of A&E at QA. Hopefully some of the suggestions it makes will help the trust to pinpoint simple but effective changes that could be made to improve the patient experience.’

Mr Bytheway added: ‘The care and safety of our patients remains our priority. All patients who arrive at the ED are assessed and prioritised according to clinical need. However no-one should have to wait longer than necessary. We are working with our partners across Portsmouth and south east Hampshire to make further improvements and improve flow.’

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust had the 10th lowest percentage of patients waiting less than four hours in A&E out of 226 other NHS trusts.

How do QA wait times compare to others?

FOR January wait times at Queen Alexandra were significantly worse than the national average.

But how did the hospital, which is run by the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trus t, compare to others nearby?

Figures provided by NHS England showed the following for January 2019:

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust:

- A&E attendances less than four hours: 8,764

- More than four hours: 3,863

- Percentage of attendances within four hours: 69.4%

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:

- Total A&E attendances less than four hours: 8,847

- More than four hours: 1,587

- Percentage of attendances within four hours: 84.8%

Isle of Wight NHS Trust:

- Total A&E attendances less than four hours: 3,639

- More than four hours: 810

- Percentage of attendances within four hours: 81.8%

University Southampton NHS Foundation Trust:

- Total A&E attendances less than four hours: 10,669

 More than four hours: 1,906

 Percentage of attendances within four hours: 84.8%

Nationally the average for A&E attendance within for hours was 84.4%.