ALMOST 4,000 patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital’s emergency department had to wait more than four hours to be seen, new statistics show.
The figures, compiled by the Labour Party from NHS England, reveal that 3,820 people had waits longer than the NHS target time.
It was also revealed that the department missed its target for 27 weeks since last September.
The Echo reported last month that the situation at the Royal’s emergency department is reaching a critical stage, mirroring problems at hospitals throughout the country.
Bosses at the Royal blamed increasing pressures on resources – particularly during the winter months – for the target failure.
Campaigners say more must be done to meet them.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said: “The four-hour waiting time target is a benchmark for quality and a barometer for identifying the health of individual trusts and hospitals. “Patients have a right under the NHS constitution to be treated within four hours in A&E, and as a fundamental right, it is important that it is met. When it isn’t, this must be accompanied by thorough explanations.”
In response to the findings, a City Hospitals Sunderland spokesman said: “Pressures on emergency departments include a growing number of patients using the service linked to an increasing elderly population.
“Many of the latter might, until quite recently, have died of conditions like heart disease or stroke, but because of improved treatments and services, they live longer.
“A shortage of medical students choosing this speciality in which to work is also a contributory factor.
“Despite the pressures, City Hospitals Sunderland was one of only 14 acute trusts nationally to see, treat and discharge or admit 95 per cent of patients, and our emergency department turnaround times for ambulance handover have increased to more than 95 per cent within 30 minutes.
“Attendances to our emergency department rose seven to eight per cent last year.
“We have adapted our processes and put extra staff in the department so that more patients get an early and rapid assessment from experienced nurses and doctors.
“We aim to get patients to the practitioner with the most appropriate skills, and we are broadening the training of nurse practitioners to extend the range of conditions that they can treat.”