Ipswich: Hospital’s emergency department records its busiest ever week with nearly 1,750 patients

Ipswich Hospital chief executive Nick Hulme

Ipswich Hospital chief executive Nick Hulme - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of Ipswich Hospital has said a decision to “change the set up” of its emergency department may need to be made after the busiest week in its history.

The department recorded its busiest-ever week last week with nearly 1,750 people coming through the doors via an ambulance or as walk-in patients.

The figures come mid-way through the EADT’s Make the Right Call campaign which aims to point people towards the most suitable healthcare provider - whether it is a pharmacist, GP or NHS 111 - to reduce the pressures on the emergency department.

Chief executive Nick Hulme said the hospital needs to look at the medium to long-term future if emergency attendances continue to rise.

“We are going to have to decide whether to start to plan for that level of activity,” he added. “I know the CCGs are doing a lot of work to reduce A&E attendance with NHS 111 and walk-in centres but at some point we will have to decide whether we need to change the set up in the emergency department so we can accommodate that surge in patients.

“We would like people to utilise other healthcare providers if suitable but we recognise that patients do have choice and if they believe the only place they will get appropriate care is A&E, then that’s where they will go.”

The week ending July 18 saw the highest levels of attendance in the emergency department in “anyone’s memory” with 1,715 attendances. And last week nearly 1,750 patients, who predominantly had minor injuries or illnesses - including 300 between midnight on Saturday and midnight Sunday - were treated ensuring records fell again.

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Praising his emergency department team for dealing with the record-breaking surge in patients, Mr Hulme added: “The highest week prior to this was 1,636 which was this time last year,” he added. “300 patients in one day is a major milestone.

“Last year we averaged 216 patients and this year it’s about 225 which is a huge number of patients.

“It puts huge pressure on us but because of our hard work in the redesign of the service, and despite it being the busiest week of the year, we still achieved our four hour target.

“The danger is that people can wait two days to see a GP but could end up coming to the emergency department to be seen in a few hours.”

The record figures come after a report from the Royal College of General Practitioners revealed that one in nine patients cannot get an appointment with their GP.

Mr Hulme added: “You wonder whether that combined with the summer, school holidays and tourists have contributed to the rise in patients.

“There are so many different factors that could drive up activity.

“There are more people outside because of the warmer weather and a proportion of them could come to A&E.”

One pattern clinicians have picked up on is an increase of patients attending the emergency department between 7-10pm.