Heatwave sees hundreds more patients attend Sunderland A&E in '˜unprecedented summer surge'

Sunderland Royal Hospital Emergency Department.Sunderland Royal Hospital Emergency Department.
Sunderland Royal Hospital Emergency Department.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust's A&E saw an increase in patients through July, compared with 2017, which health bosses said was an 'unprecedented summer surge' due to the heatwave.

NHS England figures show that 14,002 people attended the trust’s emergency departments last month, 726 more than in the same period in 2017.

Attendances in June were also higher than usual, with 13,667 patients arriving at A&E.

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Nationally record numbers of people flooded to emergency departments in July, with respiratory problems, dehydration and other illnesses associated with the hot weather.

Across England almost 2.2 million patients attended A&E in July, 100,000 more patients than the same month in 2017, with emergency admissions also rising by 6.3%. This included patients visiting minor injury units and walk in centres, which are grouped with A&E departments.

An NHS England spokesman said: “As temperatures soared, the NHS saw an unprecedented summer surge last month with a record 2.2 million patients attending A&E, and, thanks to the hard work of staff, nine in 10 people were seen, treated and admitted or discharged within four hours.”

At City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, 89.2% of people were seen, treated and admitted or discharged within the four-hour target period.

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That’s down on July 2017 when 95.3% were dealt with in four hours. Hospitals are supposed to admit or discharge 95% of patients within the target time. Three years ago 96.1% were seen within four hours.

Ian Martin, Medical Director at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “Like the rest of the NHS, we continue to see unprecedented demand for our emergency care services and this pressure is now all year round.

“In Sunderland we had a very busy July and looked after more than 20 extra patients every single day, with 457 more patients requiring emergency admission compared to July 2017.

“Our teams are working exceptionally hard, day-in, day-out, to ensure safe, high quality care for every patient who needs emergency treatment and despite this relentless increase in activity, we continue to see around nine out of every ten people within four hours of their arrival which is testament to the exceptional skill, dedication and commitment of our amazing NHS staff.

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“It is vital as part of our Path to Excellence programme of clinical transformation that we continue to work together across the whole local health economy to ensure we build future services which provide the best possible care and outcomes for the growing number and complexity of patients who need hospital-based care.”

Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the increased admissions during the heatwave had given staff no respite from the pressures and stresses of winter.

“What is of particular concern now, however, is that the summer months are traditionally the time acute hospitals and frontline staff have to recharge the batteries – this year we have had no respite and draining conditions,” he explained.

“Last year NHS leaders admitted it took until October to recover from winter 2017 and we are now only a few months away from the next onslaught.”

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Emergency admissions have increased at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. Last month 2,743 patients were admitted after turning up at A&E, a 7% rise on 2017.

Donna Kinnair, director of nursing policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This summer’s heatwave has hit healthcare services hard. With rising A&E attendance and admissions, hospitals up and down the country are now seeing winter conditions in summer, putting extra pressure on services that have barely recovered from the cold weather earlier this year.

“Nurses are seeing more cases of heart failure, renal failure and dehydration – all conditions linked to hotter weather.

“Older people are particularly at risk. With 20% more trusts breaching the four hour A&E target in July compared to June, it’s clear our understaffed services are struggling to cope.”