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Hundreds of patients in single week forced to wait more than four hours in east Kent accident departments

Kent and Canterbury Hospital stock picture
Kent and Canterbury Hospital stock picture

by Alex Claridge


More than 600 patients in a single week waited more than four hours to be seen by medics at east Kent’s accident centres.

Figures released by the NHS show that just over 15% of those admitted waited longer than a four-hour target for emergency care in the first week of April.

It comes at a time when the East Kent Hospitals Trust – which has an emergency care centre (ECC) at the Kent & Canterbury Hospital – has been under pressure to cancel clinics and discharge patients.

Last week the trust admitted it was in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in which all but the sickest patients should be sent home.

The crisis has been declared over, but the waiting time figures paint a picture of a strain on resources and employee time.

Statistics on the NHS’s website show that of 3,888 people admitted to emergency units in the week up to April 7, 612 were recorded as waiting more than four hours.

Trust spokesman Gemma Shillito said: “In recent weeks we’ve seen a significant increase in very unwell patients arriving at the emergency departments at Canterbury, Ashford and Margate, particularly in the evenings and weekends, which does affect the time it can take for some patients to be seen and treated appropriately.

The QEQM hospital, Margate
The QEQM hospital, Margate

The QEQM hospital, Margate

“We are encouraging people to consider the options available to them if they are not well, which include pharmacists, GPs, Minor Injury Units and NHS Direct.”

Pressure on the Canterbury’s ECC and the A&E centres at Ashford and Margate are being blamed on the reorganisation of the NHS, a shortage of frontline staff and the winding down of the NHS Direct helpline, due to be complete this summer.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “With fewer nurses and rising demand, emergency departments are now at risk of being overwhelmed.

“The chaotic closure of NHS Direct also risks sending more patients to A&E unnecessarily. This situation could become very dangerous over the coming months.”

The NHS figures show that nationally 33,225 patients waited more than four hours for emergency care in the first week of up April – up 250% on the same time last year.

Following last week’s crisis in east Kent, the trust insists the situation is returning to normal.

Ms Shillito added: “It’s still tight in the hospitals, but we’re in a more comfortable position.”

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