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62 more patients visiting Addenbrooke’s A&E daily, raising concern funding won’t match population growth

The chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) has expressed concern about whether the funding will be there to meet the needs of a rapidly-growing population.

Roland Sinker was speaking at a board meeting where it was suggested the hospital trust should lobby the government to take account of accelerated population growth in certain areas of the country.

Roland Sinker, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH). Picture: Keith Heppell
Roland Sinker, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH). Picture: Keith Heppell

A report presented to the board noted there had been an 18.2 per cent year-on-year increase in people attending Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s emergency department, the equivalent of an additional 62 patients per day, placing a “huge amount of pressure” on A&E and the wider hospital.

The board’s discussion last Wednesday (March 13) followed the government’s announcements in the Budget about its plans for major growth and investment in the Cambridge area.

Its accompanying ‘Case for Cambridge’ document reiterated the hopes of housing secretary Michael Gove that 150,000 new homes could be built here by 2050, alongside new laboratories and improved transport infrastructure, created under the direction of a new development corporation.

Claire Stoneham, director of strategy and major projects at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, noted that the “significant package” announced for Cambridge included £3million funding for CUH.

She said: “[This] allows us to work on longer-term health planning, which needs to be focused on the increased local population we have seen and the expected increase, particularly for urgent and emergency care, to make sure that population has access to the care they need.”

Addenbrooke’s front entrance. Picture: Keith Heppell
Addenbrooke’s front entrance. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mr Sinke welcomed the investment in Cambridge, recognising that growth can have benefits, but said he was “pretty concerned” about the government’s funding formula for the hospitals.

In 2015, CUH funding was about 20 per cent behind what was needed, he noted, explaining that the baseline was reset during the pandemic to put the trust back on a “level playing field”, which he described as a “great place to be”.

However, with the population continuing to grow, Mr Sinker said he was “not sure the funding formula matches” what the hospitals will need.

Ed Smith, the interim chief finance officer, said the mechanism used to determine how much money hospitals across the country should get uses old data, which did not take into account the “rapid growth in population” in Cambridge.

He said this was an area to be focused on and said CUH needed to lobby for a change to the mechanism to take account of “accelerated growth of population in certain parts of the country”.

Ambulance outside Addenbrooke's A&E in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ambulance outside Addenbrooke's A&E in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Nicola Ayton, chief operating officer, confirmed the hospital had seen additional demand and “sustained growth” in the number of people coming to the emergency department.

There has also been an increase in the number of occasions where it had taken more than 60 minutes for a patient to be handed over from an ambulance.

The meeting heard that the delays to the transfer of care were due to “crowding” in the emergency department.

Ms Ayton said a lack of available beds elsewhere in the hospital meant patients were spending more time in the emergency department, making it harder for them to take in more patients arriving by ambulance.

She said work was ongoing to improve the ambulance handover time, adding that staff were also continuing to work “really hard to provide safe, high quality care, while also managing a huge number of competing demands”.

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