A&E visits in Black Country and Staffordshire sink to lowest in decade
Visits to A&E across the Black Country and Staffordshire are on the rise, but still remain well below pre-pandemic levels, new figures show.
Medical chiefs have said it is "incredibly worrying" that patients have not been using the NHS as much as usual.
Trust bosses in the region have reassured people that hospitals remain a safe and hygienic place to visit and that people shouldn't avoid them if they need urgent medical treatment.
NHS England data shows 51,000 A&E attendances were recorded at hospital trusts across the Black Country and Staffordshire in May.
This was almost double than the number of visits in April – but about half of the number of visits compared to the same period last year.
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NHS Trusts across England dealt with 1.3 million A&E attendances in May, up from 917,000 in April – making them the two quietest months since such records began in 2010.
However, last month's total was still 42 per cent below May 2019, which NHS England said was likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the reduction had helped ease overcrowding, but said patients should not be afraid to get care.
Data shows 10,767 A&E attendances were recorded at Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust in May, an increase of 51 per cent on April, but still 48 per cent below the same month last year.
Over at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, 9,490 A&E attendances were noted in May this year – a rise of 32 per cent from April but still 49 per cent less than May 2019.
At Dudley Group NHS Trust, there were 9,364 A&E visits – almost double that of April at 45 per cent more but still 35 per cent below May last year.
Figures shows 6,315 A&E trips were recorded at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust in May – a boost of 29 per cent on April, but still 45 per cent below the same month last year.
And over in Staffordshire at University Hospitals or North Midlands NHS Trust there were 15,214 A&E attendances in May – 38 per cent more than April, but still 35 per cent below May 2019.
'Not getting the medical attention you need can be a far bigger threat than coronavirus'
Hospital chiefs have said people not getting the medical attention they need can be a “far bigger threat than coronavirus.”
Dr David Carruthers, medical director at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “We recognise that our population still have concerns in attending hospitals, but we do have a number of measures in place to ensure their safety.
"All patients attending the emergency departments at both Sandwell and City Hospitals are screened for Covid-19 symptoms and those with symptoms are kept separate from others. We ensure that patients and staff wear the right PPE, including face masks, gloves, aprons and visors, where necessary.”
Diane Wake, chief executive of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, said. “We appreciate that some people will be anxious about coming in to our hospital or outpatient and community settings, fearing they may be exposed to the virus. However we have put a variety of measures in place to ensure we are providing a safe environment for both staff and patients.
“The public should be reassured that we are taking their health and safety very seriously. Not getting the medical attention you need can be a far bigger threat than coronavirus.”
David Loughton, chief executive of the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust added: “It is vitally important that if people have serious conditions or concerns they seek help. Therefore, whether you or a loved one have the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, are a parent worried about their child or have concerns about conditions such as cancer you should seek help in the way you always would.”
A spokesman at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust said: “Here at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust we want to reassure patients that we are still here to provide urgent services if you need them.
“Our emergency department, as well as all other areas in our hospital and community sites have adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic with us providing hand sanitisers at every entrance which is also manned by our security staff to ensure this is done by everyone coming through and leaving the hospital. We have also put up screens where appropriate to separate areas and maintain social distancing.”
Clinical director for emergency medicine Ann-Marie Morris at University Hospital North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs Stafford County Hospital, said: “Our local communities have been great in following national guidance and it is important that people continue to stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus, reduce pressure on the NHS, and enable the services to tackle Covid-19 by treating those who are most seriously ill.
“However, we have seen a significant drop-off in attendances, perhaps because people are either worried about putting pressure on our services or because they are worried about catching Covid-19 and I would urge people to continue to seek treatment for serious medical conditions, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and seizures.
“We have made changes to our emergency department by splitting it into ‘red’ and ‘green’ areas in an attempt to keep patients who are Covid-19-positive separate from those who are not. Staff in both areas – red and green – will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment in line with national guidance.
“If people are genuinely ill or seriously injured and need our help, we absolutely want them to come and see us.”
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