PATIENT satisfaction with the accident and emergency department at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital is at its lowest level in the past two years.
Patients using emergency care services receive a text message or email requesting they provide feedback about their experience which is then used to measure performance and to make improvements.
The South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has an internally set target of 85% in terms of satisfactory patient experience.
But between June and March this year there were only two months in which it came close to matching this target.
The figure in March – the latest month for which data is currently available – was 78.98%, the lowest for two years, and it has been declining since the start of 2022.
It previously peaked at about 95% in the first few months of 2021.
A report for the trust’s board of directors said the patient experience reflected longer wait times due to the impact of covid-19.
It said review work was underway to improve patient flow in A&E and the wider hospital.
It was hoped that recent changes meaning that, once admitted, a patient’s carer or family member can remain with them may improve the patient experience.
The report also pointed out that staff levels had been reduced in all disciplines in A&E due to covid-related absences, which were at their worst during the omicron-variant wave earlier this year.
There have been anecdotal accounts of chaotic scenes in A&E at James Cook in recent months.
Last month a Stockton man said he waited seven and-a-half hours with his teenage daughter to see a triage nurse after she experienced a problem with her jaw leaving her in pain.
He described how A&E was “jam packed” and appeared to be “overwhelmed” and said he saw people bleeding and convulsing on the floor as they waited for treatment.
A&E departments last month saw the second busiest April on record in England.
Meanwhile, only 71.6% of people waited less than four hours in A&E from arrival to discharge or transfer – James Cook’s percentage being lower at 71.2%.
The relaxing of coronavirus restrictions by the Government is thought to have been a factor in releasing pent-up demand for NHS services with both primary care and A&E experiencing a surge in patients requesting to be seen.
But concern also remains that too many people aren’t choosing the correct service for their needs and visiting A&E when it may not be necessary.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said: “Like every hospital across the country, James Cook University Hospital has been operating at unprecedented levels over the past two and-a-half years.
“I know from my regular meetings with South Tees NHS Foundation Trust just how hard the staff have worked, saving lives and being at the forefront of the covid vaccination programme.
“Understandably, pressures are still high and waiting times in accident and emergency departments, and access to regular GP appointments remain an issue.
“I will be talking with the trust in the near future to discuss what measures are being put in place to alleviate these pressures and, as always, I will continue to lobby this Government to properly fund our NHS.”
A South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said: “The NHS is still very busy and across the North-East we are asking the public to choose the right services for their needs.
“A&E departments are there to treat the most serious and life-threatening conditions.
“If you have an urgent, but non-life-threatening medical need, use NHS 111 online and if needed a healthcare professional will call you.
“NHS 111 online can also direct you to an urgent treatment centre, emergency dental service, GP, pharmacy, or another more appropriate local service according to your needs.
“You can access NHS 111 online by visiting the website 111.nhs.uk
“If you are registered with a GP practice in Middlesbrough, or Redcar and Cleveland you can also ask your GP practice to make you an evening or weekend appointment at a local GP hub.”
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