Update: Record-breaking A&E pressures at hospitals over Easter

Some of the team behind Ipswich Hospital's A&E department.

Some of the team behind Ipswich Hospital's A&E department.

Record-breaking numbers of people visited hospital A&E wards in the region over Easter, it can be revealed.

Ipswich Hospital faced its busiest-ever week in A&E last week, recording 1,756 attendances from Monday to Easter Sunday – an average of 250 every day.

But the hospital, rated as one of the best in the country, still managed to meet the Government’s target of treating at least 95% of A&E patients within four hours. Despite the rise in demand, the hospital recorded a rate of 97.1%.

Over the four-day Easter period, some 1,036 patients attended the hospital’s emergency department. A low of 98.2% (Good Friday) and a high of 99.9% (Saturday) were recorded for the four-hour targets.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the hospital, praised staff in every department for “coping really well” during the “exceptionally busy week”.

A hospital spokesman confirmed that senior managers are working to identify trends to establish possible reasons for the growing numbers of A&E patients.

Earlier this month, Mr Hulme said there appeared to be “no rhyme or reason” why so many patients “required emergency attention”.

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It came after ‘Manic Monday’ two weeks ago, when Mr Hulme pushed trolleys to help overstretched staff.

Last night, he said: “It is a testament to all staff that despite seeing record numbers of attendances, we managed to continue to see and treat patients quickly.

“Colleagues in the hospital have been planning for the Easter period for many weeks and particularly on Thursday a huge effort went into safely discharging patients who did not need to be here to make sure beds were available.

“Additional staff also worked throughout the hospital over Easter.”

At West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, some 827 people attended A&E – or 206 every day. The hospital’s four-hour performance target for the month currently stands at 91% – the second-best rate in the East of England, a hospital spokesman said.

Chief operating officer Jon Green added: “(The Easter period) came at the end of what had already been a challenging week, during which large numbers of patients attended for treatment, including a record-breaking 241 in one 24-hour period.

“Unfortunately this means that some patients have had to wait longer that we would wish to receive treatment.

“We always encourage people to use the emergency department sensibly and consider other healthcare options, such as their GP, pharmacist or NHS 111, for minor illnesses or injuries.”

A total of 970 people visited Colchester Hospital’s A&E over the four-day Easter period, equivalent to 242 every day. Its four-hour target ranged from 81.1% (Saturday) to 82.9% (Easter Monday).

A hospital spokesman said: “We were busy but managed well. The number of people attending was more or less what we would expect.”

Meanwhile, there was a sharp rise in the number of emergency 999 calls made over the four-day Easter period in Suffolk. The figure rose from 1,258 last year to 1,601 this year – a 27% rise. It increased from 3,388 to 3,840 (13%) in Essex.

The number of emergency incidents attended by paramedics over Easter in Suffolk also increased from 1,120 last year to 1,193 this year. It fell in Essex from 2,812 to 2,760.

Overall, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) received 12,300 emergency 999 calls over the four-day Easter period this year – a 17% rise from 10,500 last year.

Robert Morton, chief executive of the EEAST, said: “I’d like to thank all of my colleagues for their hard work during another busy bank holiday weekend and all the community first responders who dedicated their spare time to help patients during the Easter break.

“We continue to experience a rise in demand. However, the measures we have put in place such as having more clinicians in control rooms, including GPs, means that we can give advice over the phone and ensure that our ambulance crews and clinicians on the road are focused more on seeing patients with life-threatening or serious conditions.”