SEVEN ambulances queued outside West Suffolk Hospital on Wednesday as its accident and emergency department faces increasing patient demand.
The department has seen an increase in attendances and between April and September there were 1,088 more patients needing treatment compared to the same period the previous year. The ambulance service has also registered just under a five per cent increase in calls this year.
On Wednesday the hospital activated extra measures to ensure patients were not kept waiting in the ambulances and opened up extra temporary cubicles in the waiting area where patients could be assessed.
A spokeswoman said on Wednesday: “We have been very busy today and saw a peak in admissions at lunchtime when there were seven ambulances waiting outside for a short time.
Staff worked closely with paramedics to ensure that all of these patients were transferred itno A&E as quickly as possible and we also opened our escalation area.”
The hospital has already introduced measures to reduce the time people have to spend in A& E by appointing extra consultants to the Emergency Assessment Unit, creating short stay beds for patients and changing shift patterns so that extra doctors and emergency nurses are available.
Andy Graham, interim chief operations officer, said that the profile of patients coming to the department was no different from usual but in some cases people were opting for A&E when they should see their GP or pharmacist.
“We have a department full of very sick people and when there’s a real alternative we would prefer people to go to their GP, pharmacist or NHS Direct. We need to work collectively and accept that whoever comes through the door we give them the best treatment possible,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said that since setting up clinical support desks last year it had saved 900 unnecessary journeys.