12-hour delays hit Addenbrooke’s A&E and the Cambridge hospital’s waiting lists rocket
Hundreds of patients are being forced to wait more than 12 hours for a bed at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, a report to hospital leaders has revealed.
Meanwhile, waiting lists have rocketed and health chiefs are working at speed to improve the worrying picture.
More than 50,000 people are on waiting lists for their treatments at Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), which is 69 per cent up on the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. The figures come hot on the heels of the government’s pledge to eliminate waits of more than two years by July.
The statistics in Cambridge reflect a wider pattern reflected across the country, with record A&E waits across England and the largest ever number of people waiting for treatment.
The head of the British Medical Association has warned NHS performance statistics “highlight the enormous pressure that the health service is still having to endure”.
Roland Sinker, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, writes in a report for a meeting of the CUH board on Wednesday (May 11): “The number of patients attending the emergency department continues to increase compared to pre-pandemic figures. A reduction in outflow from the department due to a lack of in-patient capacity has also resulted in longer waits and overcrowding.”
He explained that increased Covid admissions, Covid-related bed closures and staff sickness due to Covid within the hospital and wider system put “greater pressure on our urgent and emergency care pathway in particular” in April.
“This led to longer waits in the emergency department, increased ambulance handover delays and some elective operations being cancelled,” he continued.
“Throughout this period we have focused our combined efforts on actions to tackle these delays including pre-12pm discharges and early supported discharge, same-day emergency care that prevents avoidable admissions and work with system partners to prevent delays for patients awaiting social care.
“We continue to make good progress on reducing the number of patients waiting for elective treatment for more than 104 weeks and we are on track to eliminate these very long waits this summer.”
Figures show that 12,046 people attended the emergency department in March 2022, which is 1,050 – or 9.5 per cent – higher than March 2019.
Of these 1,543 patients had an ED journey time in excess of 12 hours, compared to just nine in March 2019, and 514 patients waited more than 12 hours from their decision to admit, compared to zero in March 2019.
The report also shows that the total ‘referral to treatment’ waiting list size grew by 9.5 per cent (1,381) in March compared with September last year to 53,942.
The trust expects this to grow to 56,930 by the end of the year.
It also reveals the number of patients waiting over 62 days on an urgent cancer pathway has risen sharply since last month and is now 121.
Meanwhile, sickness rates at the trust continue to increase and were up 0.3 per cent from the previous month at 5.5 per cent, warns Mr Sinker.
“Potential Covid-related sickness absence, including chest and respiratory problems, influenza related sickness and infectious diseases, continues to be the highest cause of absence,” he says.
A spokesperson for NHS England said following the release of the latest NHS performance statistics: “NHS staff are working flat out to clear the backlogs that have inevitably built up throughout the pandemic with local teams using innovative approaches to reducing waits, such as one-stop shops and Super Saturdays, all while we continue to see busy emergency services and high numbers of hospitalised Covid patients.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of the NHS Providers organisation, which represents NHS trusts, added: “Trusts are doing all they can to bear down on care backlogs which have increased during the pandemic for hospital, mental health and community services.
“But they face extraordinary pressures, including the continuing impact of Covid-19.”
A statement from CUH told patients: “Our emergency departments are currently experiencing very high demand.
“Please support your NHS by using the right service at the right time, so that our emergency departments can keep providing care for people who have a genuinely urgent or emergency healthcare need.
“If you are unsure about where to go for help, visit 111 online or call NHS 111.”