A&E pressure continues: 120,000 visits to Sunderland Royal Hospital’s emergency department last year

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THERE were almost 120,000 separate visits to Sunderland Royal Hospital’s under pressure A&E department last year, new figures have shown.

Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that 118,702 trips were made in 2012/13, with many of those recorded cases visiting more than once.

The Echo reported earlier this month how one in three people who attend the A&E department at Sunderland Royal Hospital are doing so unnecessarily.

The latest news comes after it was revealed that attendance figures had gone up by between seven and eight per cent at the Royal, ahead of the national average.

Dr Kate Lambert, consultant in emergency medicine at the hospital, has said that problems with a shortage of doctors wanting to work in emergency wards, an ageing population and having to deal with a wider range of illnesses had all contributed to the issue.

Across the country, the past decade has seen patient visits to A&E rise by 50 per cent, with unions calling on the Government to do more to reverse the current trend which they argue is greatly affecting staff.

One bit of good news for Wearside health chiefs from this latest report, however, is that 94.5 per cent of those seeking urgent treatment are dealt with in under four hours, compared to the average nationally of 94.2 per cent.

A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland said of the latest figures: “We are working closely with colleagues to ensure a widespread understanding of the correct use of the emergency department and the options open to all potential patients.

“These include the telephone helpline 111, appointments with GPs and minor injury units, as well as the use of pharmacies and, in the most routine of cases, self care at home.

“Of the 75,000 people who visited the emergency department at Sunderland Royal Hospital last year, nearly half of them either left without needing any treatment at all, or only needed minor treatment that could have been handled elsewhere – freeing up the specialist teams to focus on those patients most at need.”