Pressure on A&E at Queen’s Hospital as thousands do not require urgent care

Matron Amanda Wickens at Queen's Hospital's A&E department

Matron Amanda Wickens at Queen's Hospital's A&E department - Credit: Archant

Long queues have formed at the doors of the A&E department, at Queen’s Hospital over the past few weeks with thousands of people attending who could have sought treatment elsewhere.

Matron Amanda Wickens at Queen's Hospital's A&E department

Matron Amanda Wickens at Queen's Hospital's A&E department - Credit: Archant

In November, about 8,000 patients, who came to A&E, were discharged home without requiring emergency care and staff fear the figure could be even higher in December.

Amanda Wickens, A&E matron at Queen’s Hospital, Rom Valley Way, Romford, oversees the running of the department, which includes urgent care and the paediatric wards.

She is responsible for ensuring patients are safe and monitors the quality of care.

“It’s extremely busy at the moment,” she said.

“On our busiest days, more than 500 people attend A&E, and about 100 people get here in an ambulance.”

In A&E, there are 24 beds in cubicles for urgent care, eight beds for people in recess and more than 100 nurses working to cover the department’s 24 hour service.

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But last week, there were up to 130 people in the department at any time.

Mrs Wickens explained many patients, especially young people and families, come to the emergency department with a cough, a cold or a mouth ulcer, and have to wait long hours before being seen by staff because there are at the bottom of the priority list.

“Those patients take the doctors away from those who really need it,” she said.

She explained coming to A&E is “an easy option” but other health services can offer “better and quicker” health services including pharmacies and out-of-hours surgeries.

Mrs Wickens said “people are not aware of the facilities” and the other health services available as an alternative to A&E.

Staff at the emergency department stressed they do not want to deter people, who are in need of urgent care, from using the service.

“Elderly people come in by ambulances and are usually quite frail – they are the ones who don’t want to bother anyone but need care,” said Mrs Wickens.

Havering has the oldest population in London and Queen’s Hospital has a special emergency department, which deals exclusively with the elderly called FOPAL, the Frail and Older People’s Advice and Liaison.

Emergency department staff never turn people away but will offer alternative services to those they believe could be better treated elsewhere.

Aleksandra Hammerton, divisional manager of acute medicine oversees the A&E departments across the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT).

She said: “More than 30 per cent of people who attend A&E are children and another 30pc are elderly – and the demand is growing.”

She stressed the trust has made a lot of progress in the past couple of years and performance have increased by 10pc every quarter.

“We are one of the busiest hospitals as a combined trust in the UK,” said Carole Broadbank, acute medicine divisional nurse for the BHRUT.

She explained the reasons for long waiting times were multiple but Havering’s high number of single-handed doctor’s surgeries with only one GP and the “nationwide problem” of senior doctor shortage were part of the causes.

“The patients who are not as sick as the sickest will have to wait,” she added.