Hospital bosses call on patients to use A&E wisely this winter amid waiting time fears

West Suffolk Hospital

West Suffolk Hospital - Credit: Archant

Only visit A&E in a genuine emergency this winter. This is the plea from hospital bosses in Suffolk and north Essex following a bleak warning from The Health Foundation.

Ipswich Hospital managing director, Neill Moloney. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Hospital managing director, Neill Moloney. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: sarah lucy brown

The independent think tank claims hospitals could see the worst ever performance for A&E waiting times this winter unless the NHS receives a cash injection.

Colchester General, Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals have all struggled already this year to hit the national target of admitting or discharging 95% of all patients within four hours of arrival at their emergency departments.

Faced with the increase in demand traditionally brought by the colder weather, trust leaders are urging members of the public to make the right choice and utilise other services before attending A&E when safe to do so.

Neill Moloney, managing director of Ipswich Hospital, said: “Our ambition is to continue to see patients within the national four-hour standard in ED (emergency department) or sooner.

Alison Power, Director of Operations at Colchester Hospital. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Alison Power, Director of Operations at Colchester Hospital. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Contributed

“We really appreciate all the help that the community gives us in only using ED when it’s a real emergency.

“If people can continue to choose wisely and well which service they use this will make a significant difference to us.”

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Mr Moloney said the trust had a “strong plan” in place to manage winter pressures.

Alison Power, director of operations at Colchester General Hospital, said the trust was working more closely with health and social care partners to ensure patients received timely urgent care.

She added: “Our aim is to admit or discharge 95% of patients within four hours of arriving at our emergency department and we have faced some serious challenges achieving this in recent years. However, we continue to work hard every day to reach the standard and winter is no different to the summer in that respect.”

A West Suffolk Hospital spokeswoman said the trust was “pulling out all the stops” to prepare for winter, but added: “Whatever measures we put in place, we know it will likely still be a high-pressured winter across the NHS.

“Together with our fellow NHS trusts, our commissioners, and local councils, we’re asking people to take simple steps to help us this winter by accessing the right NHS services, at the right time, for their needs.”

What can you do to ease pressure on A&E this winter?

• Pharmacists can offer help and advice when people are feeling unwell and provide appropriate over-the-counter medicine;

• Trained advisors are available 24/7 via the NHS 111 phone line to deal with urgent medical queries;

• People aged 65 and over, patients with certain long-term medical conditions, young children and pregnant women are urged to take advantage of the free flu jab;

• Home medicine cabinets should be stocked up with essentials including paracetamol, anti-diarrhoeal medicine, rehydration mixture, indigestion remedy and plasters;

• Suffolk GP+ can lay on appointments for patients during evenings, weekends and bank holidays;

• Washing hands regularly can prevent the spread of infections and viruses;

• Stay warm - Suffolk’s Warm Homes Healthy People service can help with this via 03456 037 686.