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South Tyneside A&E department avoided an ‘unprecedented summer surge’ in A&E attendances caused by heatwave

South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust avoided an increase in A&E attendances, which has hit other trusts across England during July’s heatwave.

NHS England figures show that 6,245 people attended the trust’s emergency departments last month, 119 more than in July 2017.

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

There were almost 2.2 million attendances, 100,000 more people than in the same period last year, which NHS England described as an “unprecedented summer surge”. This included patients visiting minor injury units and walk in centres, which are grouped with A&E departments.

A 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 South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust 95.5% of people were seen, treated and admitted or discharged within the four-hour target period.

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

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.”

Emergency admissions have increased at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust. Last month 1,318 patients were admitted after turning up at A&E, a 4% 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.”