Hospitals are expected to admit, treat or discharge 95 per cent of patients within four hours of arrival, but the city hospital Emergency Department is nowhere near meeting that target.
Members of Peterborough City Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee were told at their meeting on Tuesday that targets at the Emergency Department were “falling woefully short”.
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Caroline Walker, CEO of North West Anglian NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for PCH, said: “In October 2019 the figure was 64 per cent, by November that had fallen to 60 per cent, and in December 2019 just 56 per cent of patients were being seen within four hours.
“Obviously this is unacceptable and we must find out what is going wrong, but this is definitely a Peterborough problem.
“At Hinchingbrooke we easily met our 95 per cent target on six days out of seven.
“The problems at PCH are complicated, but some of it is due to staff being off sick, some of it will be because traditionally this is one of the busiest times of year, and there is a rush of incoming patients.
“That said, there are some very sick people in hospital at the moment, and we have had a nasty outbreak of flu.
“Many people didn’t have their flu jabs this year thinking the weather too mild for flu to take effect.
“Instead, the opposite has happened, a flu bug is now going round that has had a particularly virulent effect on our staff – many of whom don’t want their flu jab for a multitude of reasons – and they have now gone home sick.”
Ms Walker went on to add: “Perhaps the biggest problem we face is people turning up at hospital with ailments that could just as easily be treated by their GP, a local clinic or even at home.
“For some reason in this country people feel compelled to come to hospital with problems that are simply not emergencies. Minor complaints can and should be treated in other ways.”
Cllr Shabina Qayyum, a GP herself, asked: “Are you consulting with GPs and clinics to tell them about this?”
Ms Walker replied: “Yes, we’ve had lengthy conversations with GPs and local clinicians trying to get the message across to their patients that hospitals are only for emergencies; but sometimes it appears to be falling on deaf ears.
“At Hinchingbrooke we’ve trialled a scheme where incoming patients are screened as soon as they walk through the door just to see how much of an emergency their complaint is.
“The results show that as many as seven in 10 arrivals could be dealt with other than by coming to the ED at hospital.
“Obviously this would have a dramatic effect on waiting times for those who genuinely need emergency help.”
Committee chair Cllr Kim Aitken said: “I propose a recommendation that the pilot scheme at Hinchingbrooke be trialled at PCH to see if we can somehow reduce the numbers of people attending the hospital ED without emergency requirements.”
The committee voted unanimously to adopt the scheme at the PCH Emergency Department.
Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service