PATIENTS are putting extra pressure on Warwick Hospital’s A&E by attending when they do not need to.
The Observer can exclusively reveal three in ten patients who attend the emergency department at the Lakin Road hospital are those who refuse to wait to see their GP – some with highly contagious bugs such as flu or vomiting bug norovirus.
It means around 17,000 of the some 58,000 who walk through A&E doors annually should not be there.
And with the increased strain of winter on local hospitals set to cost the NHS more than £1.5million, South Warwickshire Foundation Trust – which runs Warwick, Leamington, Stratford and Shipston hospitals – is calling on patients to play their part in helping ease the pressure.
Director of operations Helen Lancaster said: “The main causes for winter pressures are the extra people coming through the emergency department. A significant number of any of these do not need a visit to A&E and can be managed safely at home, by a GP or through pharmacy support.
“Minor illnesses and minor injuries are not appropriate to be dealt with in A&E. It is for urgent and emergency care and serious illness. For more minor cases there are other places where these injuries and illnesses can be dealt with in a more efficient manner.”
In recent years winter demand has soared, with the three months at the start of this year being the trust’s busiest ever. Many operations were cancelled and one day saw more than 200 people came through A&E doors – nearly 20 per cent more than an ‘average’ day.
Mrs Lancaster said the trust could face a shortage of more than 60 beds throughout winter. This is nearly three times more than the total for the rest of the year, when there was a shortfall of 25.
But the trust has been putting plans in place to try and minimise the impact of more patients.
This includes temporarily increasing the current 430 bed capacity at Warwick by an extra 43 on wards, and increasing places available in the community.
And on top of the some 1,600 nurses it already employs, the trust will also be ‘block booking’ agency staff and aiming to fill current vacant posts.
Mrs Lancaster added: “The trust began preparing for winter from April. Dedicated planning sessions took place, working on schemes to address the capacity gap, support flow and help us to deliver referral to treatment targets.
“We have identified enough extra capacity within the organisation to meet the increased demand we predict over winter. Other initiatives supporting patients’ recovery by encouraging their independence and keeping active, as well reducing unnecessary time spent in hospital.”