Fewer patients are turning up to under-pressure A&E departments in Midlands hospitals – but staff are struggling more than ever to cope.
New attendance figures for last winter show a fall in the number of patients going to A&E in all but two hospitals in the Black Country and Staffordshire.
Despite that hospitals are still falling short of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours - a key national target.
Attendance numbers are down drastically in Sandwell and West Birmingham, with around 4,000 fewer patients attending the trust’s two hospitals - Sandwell General Hospital and City Hospital.
The worst drop in performance was seen at Russells Hall Hospital, where despite marginally fewer patients going to A&E during winter just gone -compared with the same three months for 2012/13 - just 91 per cent of people were seen within four hours.
That was a drop of four per cent from a year ago, and bosses there said an increase in elderly people who have more complicated needs was one of the factors for the reduction in performance.
Chief executive Paula Clark said: “This inevitably puts pressure on the whole health and social care system.
“In order to address the increasing demand we are continually developing new ways of working within the hospital and with colleagues.”
Walsall’s Manor Hospital saw a similar dip in the number of patients it saw within four hours, down from 94 per cent to 91.3 per cent. The hospital, though, did see 800 more patients.
Medical director Amir Khan said: “The trust has seen an increase in emergency admissions year on year which has unfortunately impacted on our ability to meet the four-hour target for the winter period of 2013/14.”
Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital saw 900 more patients and suffered a one per cent drop in its rate, down to 92 per cent. Bosses there echoed what those in Dudley said about elderly patients. New Cross Hospital will soon have a brand new £30 Emergency Centre.
A spokesman for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said: “In comparing these figures a number of factors have to be taken into account, including an increase in both attendances to A and E and subsequent admissions this winter.”
Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust was previously one of the worst in the region for not seeing patients quickly enough, but now tops the list in the Black Country and Staffordshire.
Meanwhile the soon-to-be disbanded Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust saw 11,642 patients last winter – achieving a rate of seeing 90.5 per cent within four hours, compared to 11,269 and just 83.5 per cent this winter.