EFFORTS to stop people turning up at the county’s A&E departments are failing to have an impact.
Hospital bosses say they are already experiencing an unprecedented level of demand as they head into what has been described as potentially ‘a very difficult winter’.
Commissioners have put in place numerous schemes to reduce demand by treating more people in the community, with the aim of cutting emergency admissions this year by 7.5 per cent.
But so far the county’s hospitals have dealt with 315 more emergency admissions than in 2013/14, up 1.3 per cent from 24,430 to 24,745 with all three clinical commissioning groups showing an overall rise.
Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG has managed to cut admissions of the over 75s by 3.7 per cent or 78 people, but that has been cancelled out by an increase of 159 – or 3.3 per cent – in the number of under-75s being admitted. South Worcestershire CCG has prevented 114 emergency admissions of those under-75, but among the over-75s they have soared by 8.9 per cent or 290 additional people.
The number of people turning up at A&E is also rising, with 77,000 being seen between April and September. At the current rate it means by the end of March next year 154,000 people will have attended A&E – up from 141,000 last year – even before November and December which traditionally are the busiest months of the year.
Despite the pressure the Alexandra Hospital has hit the four hour A&E waiting time target every month since April while the Worcestershire Royal has not hit it once, dropping to 86.7 per cent during October.
The extra demand is hitting the Trust’s finances with the need to recruit more temporary doctors and nurses partly behind a forecast deficit of at least £15million this year.
Penny Venables, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said she was concerned the numbers continued to rise year after year despite the efforts of commissioners.
“My worry is there’s something more fundamental making people turn up at A&E departments and in the main I don’t think they are all accidents or emergencies.”
Commissioners say admissions from GPs are down 13 per cent on last year but admissions resulting from people attending A&E are significantly up.
A new Clinical Navigation Unit is due to open at the Alexandra Hospital later this month which commissioners hope, together with a new Urgent Care Centre at the Worcestershire Royal, will result in further reductions in admissions, but they admit they won’t now hit the 7.5 per cent target.
A spokesman for the county’s commissioners said it was important people remembered A&E was for serious and life-threatening conditions and in all other cases alternatives were available.
“Nationally there is extreme pressure on A&E departments and Worcestershire is no different.”