More than 5,000 patients waited four or more hours to be seen at accident and emergency departments at east Kent hospitals, according to the latest statistics.
The latest monthly figures for hospital admissions indicate the East Kent Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust faces ongoing problems dealing with patients within the government’s target.
Across Kent as a whole, 43,492 patients went to A&E departments in Kent in December, with 11,557 waiting longer than the government’s four hour target to be seen.
Delays were greatest at the East Kent NHS Trust, which was the sixth worst-performing trust in the country for delayed admissions in December, with just 61% of patients being seen within four hours.
Of the 13,925 patients who went to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the QEQM Hospital in Margate in December, more than a third – 5,142 – were not seen within four hours.
That was significantly higher than Kent’s other hospitals, who also experienced problems meeting the four-hour target.
Medway NHS Trust saw it slip back in December when 8,074 patients went to A&E departments – of which 2,496 waited longer than four hours to be seen.
That was one of the biggest slumps in the country – with 61% being seen within the target compared to 83% the previous month.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust performed better with 82.6% of the 12,782 patients being admitted within four hours.
Although that was a fall on November’s figure of 87.6%, the hospitals saw 847 more patients in December.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust performed the best, with 81.6% of the 9,391 patients seen within four hours.
However, that was lower than the previous month when nearly 90% of patients were seen within the target.
Overall, 43,492 patients were seen at accident and emergency departments across Kent in December, the equivalent of 1,403 a day.
Health chiefs today warned the government that the service was at breaking point.
Some 68 senior doctors wrote to the Prime Minister to say patients were dying in hospital corridors as safety was compromised by “intolerable” conditions.
In a statement, the East Kent trust said: “Like the rest of the NHS, we cared for an extraordinary high number of ill patients in December.
“Like the rest of the NHS, we cared for an extraordinary high number of ill patients in December” – East Kent Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust
“The local NHS has prepared for increased pressure over the winter period, including reducing the number of planned operations carried out in hospitals to make more beds available for emergency patients, and increasing doctor cover in the emergency departments.
“However, there has been a high demand on the whole health system.
“Because the most critically ill patients are seen first some people have waited longer than we would like in our emergency departments before being admitted to a ward or discharged.”
The trust added that it had successfully bid for £1.9m for the winter period to provide extra beds and care packages within the community to support the timely discharge of patients.”
The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust said: “There is still unprecedented demand on our Emergency Departments but we are pleased to note that there was an improvement in waiting times in the month of December compared to November.
“Additionally, our figures show that while we saw 937 more patients in A&E in December 2017 compared to December 2016, we still managed to reduce the number of those who waited longer than four hours to complete their care with us, which is a significant improvement.
“Although we are not seeing all patients as quickly as we would like to at this time of huge demand, we are doing everything we can to maintain a good service and it would seem that the carefully-implemented winter plan we have in place has helped improve our performance in December, compared to last.”
James Lowell, executive director of clinical operations at the Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: “Like many NHS organisations across the country, we received high demand for services during December.
“This included a very high number of very ill people with complicated health needs who required admission to hospital.
“This meant that we have had a high level of bed occupancy across the Trust, with some of our patients facing longer waits in our Emergency Department than we would want them to, while we focus on our most unwell patients and creating space on our wards.
“We would like to thank our patients and their families for bearing with us during this busy time.”