Patients wait eight hours in A&E as hospital urges 'genuine emergencies'

The board indicating possible waiting time to patients at A&E at the James Paget on Tuesday, August 24.

The board indicating possible waiting time to patients at A&E at the James Paget on Tuesday, August 24. - Credit: Supplied

Patients experienced waits of more than eight hours at a Norfolk hospital, which is urging people not to come to accident and emergency unless a "genuine emergency". 

The NHS across Norfolk has throughout the summer urged the public to seek the right treatment for illnesses and injury,  with patient numbers to A&E reaching record levels, in part due to a surge in visitor numbers to the county. 

Patients at the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, reported waits of up to nine hours on Tuesday, with staff triaging patients in order of highest clinical need. 

The board indicating possible waiting time to patients at A&E at the James Paget on Tuesday, August 24.

The board indicating possible waiting time to patients at A&E at the James Paget on Tuesday, August 24. - Credit: Supplied

A Great Yarmouth man, who did not wish to be named, arrived at 3pm on Tuesday afternoon, having been referred to be seen for treatment including a scan by his GP. 

After seven hours he was seen and left the hospital at around 3am and said it was "distressing" that people arriving at the hospital were walking away from medical treatment due to the long waits. 

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The Great Yarmouth resident said: "It shocked me. At times you expect three to four hours, I was surprised it was eight to nine hours.

"A 94-year-old woman came in with a big gash on her head, she went to register, sat down for a couple of minutes and discussed with her daughter are they going to wait."

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The gentleman said in conversation that waits were being impacted by severe staff shortage and it was "how it is at the moment".

James Paget Hospital

The James Paget University Hospital is urging people not to come in unless it is a genuine emergency. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

The hospital did not comment when asked if pressure was building due to rising visiting numbers or factors such as staffing, but tweeted on Wednesday asking the public not to come to A&E unless it is a "genuine emergency". 

A James Paget University Hospital spokesman said: “Our staff are working incredibly hard to see and treat patients as quickly as possible, prioritising those with the most urgent clinical needs first.

“We are working closely with our partners in the NHS and social care to respond to the higher demand for services; the NHS is open and we ask people to choose the right service for their needs.

"Please remember you can call 111 or use the online service day or night to get urgent health advice and support quickly, and closer to home.”

Local GP and chair of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney, Dr Anoop Dhesi. Pict

Local GP and chair of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney, Dr Anoop Dhesi. Picture: Norfolk and Wavey Clinical Commission Group - Credit: Archant

The Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group reported staycations were driving demand for urgent and emergency care at the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, which in July saw 7,827 patients. 

Working with St Johns Ambulance, pop-up treatment units have been set up in Great Yarmouth and Hunstanton every weekend in August, and in Gorleston over the bank holiday weekend to try to reduce numbers in A&E. 

Dr Anoop Dhesi, a local GP and chair of NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said around 20,000 people had been reached through its holiday campaign. 

Dr Dhesi said: “Please remember that our Emergency Departments (A&E) is for serious and life threatening emergencies and injuries and that there is a broad range of local healthcare services where you can access advice and treatment."

“We are seeing a surge in tourists to Norfolk and Waveney this summer, so have launched our happy, healthy holidays campaign to remind people of the healthcare options which are available."

He issued advice that summer conditions including hay fever, heat exhaustion, insect bites and sunburn, alongside minor illnesses and injuries could be seen by pharmacists. 

Under NHS targets patients should be treated or admitted within four hours of arrival.

The latest figures which show attendance in July reported 69.9pc of patients were seen within four hours, falling for the fourth month straight. 

The trust reached a record low of 68pc in January this year, during the peak of the second wave. 

All three hospitals reported new record attendance figures, with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital admitting 18,980 people last month. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital saw 7,241 people through its doors. 

Last week the chief executive of East Anglian Air Ambulance Service (EAAA) said staycations had contributed to its busiest period in more than four years, with high demands already in August. 

What services are available? 

NHS 111, which can provide advice if you have an urgent medical problem and are not sure what to do. They can direct you to the most appropriate place and even book a GP consultation or ED slot if necessary. Call 111 or visit

Pharmacies, which can provide expert help and advice on common conditions such as hayfever, colds, cuts and bruises and insect bites. If your symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, they will direct you to the right service.

The NHS Walk-In Centre at Rouen House on Rouen Road, Norwich, which is open between 7am and 9pm daily and can help with minor cuts and wounds, strains and sprains and skin complaints. Patients will be triaged at the front door and then treated or signposted elsewhere if necessary.

The Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at Cromer Hospital on Mill Road is open seven days-a-week, including bank holidays, from 8am to 7.45pm. It provides treatment for minor injuries such as minor wounds, burns or simple fractures.

Call 01603 646230 for advice about whether your injury is suitable for the MIU. In west Norfolk, there is Wisbech MIU, which is at North Cambridgeshire Hospital, The Park, Wisbech, PE13 3AB. It opens from 8.30am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

GP surgeries, which can help with problems such as vomiting and stomach ache.

Holiday-makers should contact their own GP practice for any health matters they are already treating them for. Their own GP practice can also send prescriptions electronically to a local pharmacy to collect.

In life-threatening emergencies dial 999.

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