MORE than 7,700 people had to wait at least four hours to be admitted to, transferred or discharged from Gloucestershire hospitals, according to the latest figures.
Data published by NHS England, show that 5,290 people waited more than four hours to be seen at Gloucestershire’s two A&E units in Gloucester and Cheltenham in August, while a further 2,474 waited at least four hours at Great Western Hospital just over the county border in Swindon.
Just 57 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which falls far below the NHS’s target and makes the county’s two A&E units some of the worst hospitals for such waiting times in the country.
A spokesperson from NHS Providers recently told a national newspaper that “demand continues to outstrip capacity’, adding how “shortages of staff, beds and equipment, as well as the need for proper investment in the NHS estate, social care, and more preventative support, are putting the health service under an alarming level of stress.”
But leading Liberal Democrat councillors in Gloucestershire are now calling for more investment in county health services and a long-term plan to fix the NHS and social care system.
Councillor Lisa Spivey (LD, South Cerney), who is the deputy leader of the Lib Dem group at Shire Hall, said: “Our doctors, nurses and NHS staff are working tirelessly to help those in need. My daughter recently broke her foot and we waited over ten hours in A&E to be treated.
“During that time, I spoke to staff who told me they felt overworked and undervalued.”
“The Government has spent years neglecting our health service, failed to recruit and retain staff, and it has now reached tipping point.
“We’re suffering the consequences here in Gloucestershire, with thousands of people waiting hours on end for urgent attention. It’s despicable and something must be done before it ends in tragedy.”
“With an ageing population we need a long-term plan for health and social care or our services are going to continue to be overwhelmed. With cold weather on the way I’m really worried about our health services being able to survive the winter.”
Cotswold District Council Leader Joe Harris (LD, St Michael’s) said the county has seen cuts to community hospitals over the past decade.
“With our population growing, we should be investing in community hospitals not cutting them so we can ease the pressure on our larger hospitals.”
The Conservative Government has blamed the pandemic for the worsening wait times, but the Lib Dems say their analysis shows that long delays have steadily been getting worse across the country since 2015.
Seven years ago, just 1,306 patients waited over 12 hours to be admitted to A&E in an emergency. This more than quadrupled to 8,270 in 2019, the year before the pandemic began.
A Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said they continue to see very high numbers of patients across emergency departments in Cheltenham and Gloucester, with an average of almost 400 people every day using the service in August.
“We are disappointed that too many patients in Gloucestershire continue to experience long waits in our emergency departments and the trust has already significantly improved our facilities and expanded the emergency department in Gloucester,” a spokesperson said.
“We do urge everyone to consider the range of healthcare options available when they require urgent care. There are a number of alternative services people can use, including the ASAP Glos NHS App and website and 111.nhs.uk, which will signpost people to the right care for them, including pharmacies and minor injury and illness units. The 111 phone service can also provide advice and book people into local NHS services if needed.”
“Our staff continue to work tirelessly to meet the needs of local people and that we can provide the kind of care and experience we all want for our patients.”
Also, NHS Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust said in a joint statement that they are working together to tackle waiting times.
They said health and care services in Gloucestershire are facing a number of significant challenges including high levels of need which are often complex in their nature, workforce pressures and rising levels of seasonal illness. This is common with many areas of the UK.
“Against that backdrop, One Gloucestershire health and care partners are working more closely than ever before to ensure the journey in and out of hospital is as smooth as it can be.
“It is this spirit of partnership working that will ensure further improvements are made, acknowledging that many of the challenges facing urgent and emergency care can only be overcome by working together and are a shared responsibility.
“A whole raft of measures have already been put in place to improve access to services, improve ambulance handover arrangements at the hospital front door and help ensure people are able to leave hospital when safe to do so with ongoing care support if needed.
“We acknowledge that some patients are still waiting longer than any of us would like and we are sorry for that. More needs to be done, which is why all partners are currently embarking on an ambitious system transformation programme.
“Staff across NHS and care services continue to do an exceptional job in incredibly challenging circumstances and we also need to thank local people for their ongoing support in using NHS services responsibly and for showing respect and kindness towards health and care professionals.”