Heatwave brings hundreds more patients to hospital trust’s A&E units in ‘unprecedented summer surge’

Peterborough City Hospital
Peterborough City Hospital

Almost 1,000 more people attended North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust’s A&E units this July, compared with 2017, which health bosses said was an “unprecedented summer surge” due to the heatwave.

NHS England figures show that 13,987 people attended the trust’s emergency departments, including Peterborough City Hospital, last month, 873 more than in July 2017. Attendances in June were also higher than usual, with 13,182 patients arriving at A&E.

Nationally record numbers of people flooded to emergency departments in July, with respiratory problems, dehydration and other illnesses associated with the hot weather.

Across England almost 2.2 million patients attended A&E in July, 100,000 more patients than the same month in 2017, with emergency admissions also rising by 6.3%. This included patients visiting minor injury units and walk in centres, which are grouped with A&E departments.

An NHS England spokesman said: “As temperatures soared, the NHS saw an unprecedented summer surge last month with a record 2.2 million patients attending A&E, and, thanks to the hard work of staff, nine in 10 people were seen, treated and admitted or discharged within four hours.”

At North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust 90.7% of people were seen, treated and admitted or discharged within the four hour target period.

That’s slightly better than July 2017 when 90% were dealt with in four hours. Hospitals are supposed to admit or discharge 95% of patients within the target time. Three years ago 95.8% were seen within four hours.

Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the increased admissions during the heatwave had given staff no respite from the pressures and stresses of winter.

“What is of particular concern now, however, is that the summer months are traditionally the time acute hospitals and frontline staff have to recharge the batteries - this year we have had no respite and draining conditions,” he explained.

“Last year NHS leaders admitted it took until October to recover from winter 2017 and we are now only a few months away from the next onslaught.”

Emergency admissions have increased at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust. Last month 3,550 patients were admitted after turning up at A&E, a 14% rise on 2017.

Donna Kinnair, director of nursing policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This summer’s heatwave has hit healthcare services hard. With rising A&E attendance and admissions, hospitals up and down the country are now seeing winter conditions in summer, putting extra pressure on services that have barely recovered from the cold weather earlier this year.

“Nurses are seeing more cases of heart failure, renal failure and dehydration - all conditions linked to hotter weather.

“Older people are particularly at risk. With 20% more trusts breaching the four hour A&E target in July compared to June, it’s clear our understaffed services are struggling to cope.”