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Fewer patients waited in Kent A&E units for more than four hours in January

By Ellis Stephenson

The county's A&E departments are still struggling to meet government targets, it has been revealed.

All of the four hospital trusts in Kent failed to see 95% of A&E patients within four hours of them arriving in January.

The latest figures come as it's revealed this winter has been one of the most challenging ever for the NHS in England.

The A&E at the William Harvey.
The A&E at the William Harvey.

The latest stats show there was a slight improvement on A&E waiting times in Kent last month, with 78% being seen within four hours - up from 73% in December.

Data, released today from NHS England, show the number of people who went to A&E departments and the number of those who were seen within four hours of arriving.

Dartford and Gravesham hospital trust saw 10,682 people in A&E and 82% of those were seen within the four hour target.

East Kent hospitals got to 69.3% of its 16,562 patients, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells treated 85.3% of its 14,002 walk-ins within the time limit and Medway saw 7,878 of the 10,205 (76.9%) patients that attended A&E within four hours.

That means across the county 78% of people were seen within four hours, up from 73% in December.

The average percentage of people seen in A&E across England within four hours is 85%.

Martin Berry from the College of Paramedics said: "Staff are exhausted and their continuing to work and although there's been a slight drop in pressure the pressure is still enormous.

"We're already starting to see some new innovations like paramedics trying to deal with patients in the community.

"We do have to think really differently. We need to start treating people in the community better."

A spokesman for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said: "There is still high demand on our emergency departments but we are doing everything we can to provide a high quality service for our patients.

"Despite the higher than expected demands on emergency services, we have improved our performance against the four-hour standard, compared to the same period last year.

"We have a carefully thought through winter plan, which involves collaboration across the health and social care system to ensure all aspects of patient flow are managed effectively.

"We are continuing to ask people who do not specifically require an emergency department to seek treatment via their GP, a minor injury unit or pharmacy, where they may be seen quicker, at the same time as freeing up A&E departments for those who are acutely unwell and emergencies."

Meanwhile another hospital trust has said last month was the busiest in the NHS.

Director of Clinical Operations for Unplanned and Integrated Care at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, James Lowell, said: "January is the busiest month for NHS organisations across the country and we were no exception.

"Our emergency department saw a large number of very ill people, many with complicated health needs, who required admission to hospital.

"With these high levels of admissions, our hospital beds were full for a large part of the month.

"This meant that some of our patients did face longer waits in our emergency department while we found beds for them.

"I am extremely sorry to any patient that had to wait for a bed to become available and would like to thank them and their families for bearing with us when we were so busy.

"Although we are not seeing quite as many people in our emergency department as we were in January, and we are seeing more people within 4-hours than we were on some days in January, we are still very busy.

"We would encourage anyone who feels unwell to carefully consider whether an emergency department is the best place for them to receive care; for more minor ailments a GP, walk-in centre or pharmacist may be more appropriate and we strongly encourage people to use 111 if uncertain of how to access urgent care."

All other trusts have been contacted for comment.

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