General needs to improve A&E waits in Northampton

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A greater proportion of Northampton General Hospital emergency patients wait more than four hours than almost any other hospital.

Figures obtained by the Health Service Journal show only Surrey and Sussex Healthcare hospital had a higher percentage of people waiting longer than the national target time in the first six months of the 2012.

Almost 17 per cent of NGH emergency patients fell into that category, compared with Surrey and Sussex at just over 22 per cent. At the hospitals in joint third position, 16 per cent of A&E patients waited four hours plus.

Christine Allen, Northampton General Hospital’s chief operating officer, said: “We’ve done all we can in terms of creating capacity, but what we now need to do is work with our commissioners to improve the urgent care pathway from primary care right through to discharge from hospital.”

The four-hour target measures how long it takes patients to be admitted or discharged after they are initially checked over. Hospitals are required to see 95 per cent of people within that time.

NGH said it was still looking into why waits were longer than most other NHS hospitals.

However, managers believe one of the problems has 
been more patients starting to arrive in the evening and early hours rather than in the afternoon.

Bosses have responded by upping staff numbers at peak times and have recently built new A&E cubicles.

But NGH is also working with local authorities and NHS Northamptonshire to see “what other services need to be available outside of hospital”.

Although the data only runs up to June, NGH admitted waiting times had remained broadly the same since.

However a spokesman said their measures had seen other benefits, including a “significant decrease” in the time taken for the ambulance service to hand patients that has “almost eliminated” the problem.