Thursday, 19 November 2009

Solihull patients "admitted just to meet target"

HOSPITAL staff admitted far more Solihull A&E patients minutes before the deadline for a crunch waiting target, figures show.

Official figures shows the number of patients admitted almost doubled in the ten minutes before a four-hour maximum wait ended compared to the previous ten.

This has been seen in other parts of England – sparking accusations that patients are only admitted to meet targets.

The four-hour target – which must be met by hospital authorities for at least 98 per cent of patients – is heralded by Labour as proof that the NHS has improved.

Yet critics say sees patients admitted who do not need a bed and diverts doctors away from patients who need their attention.

Analysis of data for Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Solihull Hospital, found waits shot from 5,763 from 3h41mins to 3h50mins to 10,459 from 3h50mins to 4h.

Yet the trust performed better in the latest time window than England. It admitted 2.4 per cent of all patients compared to 4.4 per cent nationwide (see table below).

Most patients, 33.1 per cent, waited from one to two hours, then arrival to one hour (24.9 per cent), two to three hours (22.3 per cent) and three to four hours (17.1 per cent).

A further 2.4 per cent waited more than four hours.

The trust lags behind England in admitting people within 40 minutes but admits higher numbers from then to 2h40mins. It admitted fewer from then to four hours.

Click here to download the data (Excel) and here to read the official analysis.

Health Minister Mike O’Brien said the “overwhelming majority” of English patients were seen within four hours and surveys showed high satisfaction rates.

He said: “Meeting the standard does not mean that the quality of care is compromised.

“We have always made it clear that quality of care and clinical need must come first and we expect trusts to ensure that patient safety is their first priority.”

The figures also show the trust discharged far more patients to be followed up by their GP than England, 16.8 per cent compared to 36.8 per cent.

Nationwide, more were discharged without the need for a follow-up, 41.3 per cent, than at HEFT, 20.8 per cent.

Figures were only available for the trust’s three hospitals, Solihull, Heartlands in Bordesley Green East and Good Hope in Sutton Coldfield.

Click on picture to see full figures: