Norfolk and Norwich Hospital improves waiting times - but other hospitals’ performance falls

Norfolk's biggest hospital is bucking a national trend which has seen A&E waiting times increase over 12 months.

Department of Health data shows that thousands more people waited for more than four hours for emergency treatment in A&E departments, walk-in centres and minor injury units in 2010 than in 2009.

Last June, health secretary Andrew Lansley relaxed an A&E target requiring hospitals to see 98pc of patients within four hours, cutting the target to 95pc of patients.

In the six months after the changes, the number of people waiting more than four hours rocketed nationally.

The data shows that, in the six months from July to December 2009, 176,522 people waited more than four hours, rising to 292,052 people from July to December 2010 – an increase of 65pc.

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There were 15.9m A&E visits recorded in 2010, a 4.1pc increase on the following year, the figures show.

Of the total numbers arriving at A&E from July to December 2009, 98.7pc were seen within four hours, but this figure fell to 97.9pc in the same period in 2010.

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But the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) achieved a very slight increase in the number seen within four hours, rising from 98.5pc in 2009 to 98.7pc between July and December last year.

A spokesman said: 'Over the last two years our A&E department has maintained a good track record in treating patients promptly, even though the national targets have changed.'

In February this year, the hospital saw 99.1 pc of patients within four hours.

Between July and December 2010 compared to the same six-month period in 2009, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds have seen slight reductions in the percentage of patients seen within four hours.

In 2009, 98.1 pc of patients arriving at the QEH were seen within four hours, with this figure falling to 95.8pc the following year. Last month, 95.2pc were seen within four hours.

West Suffolk Hospital saw 95.8pc of patients within four hours between July and December 2009, down from 97.4pc in that six-month period the year before. In March, this figure rose to 99.7pc.

James Paget Hospital saw its percentages fall from 98.3pc in 2009 to 97.3pc last year and increased patient numbers saw the percentage of patients seen within four hours fall again to 95.9pc in February this year.

A spokesman said: 'The performance figure for February is lower than in recent months. However, the trust has seen substantially higher demand for its services than could have been reasonably anticipated.

'Up to the end of December, there had been a 6pc increase in emergency activity year on year. We then saw emergency admissions rise by 13 pc in January compared to January 2010 which equates to 197 additional patients in that month. Those pressures also continued throughout February.'

The four-hour target has since been replaced with a new set of quality indicators designed to measure performance.

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