Cold snap in April added to pressure on A&E, Brighton and Hove health chiefs told

Cold weather in April may have caused a spike in the number of patients turning up at accident and emergency (A&E) departments, health chiefs were told.

This may have contributed to A&E targets to see patients within four hours being missed at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH).

The trust runs the A&E Department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Kemp Town as well as smaller A&E departments at the neighbouring Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Sussex Eye Hospital.

Health chiefs were told that BSUH also missed targets for “referral to treatment” (RTT) times – the time between being referred to a consultant and being seen by him or her.

Performance levels at BSUH were discussed by the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body.

At a meeting at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Tuesday 24 July), one CCG director said that spending in April was up £200,000 or 1.7 per cent higher than last year.

The CCG is responsible for planning and commissioning health services in Brighton and Hove, working with CCGs across Sussex and East Surrey.

The governing body was told that total unplanned care, including A&E, cost £280,000 – or 5.4 per cent more – than last year.

BSUH saw 87.7 per cent of A&E patients within the four-hour target, compared with a target of 95 per cent.

The performance report was presented by Sarah Valentine, the strategic director of contracting and performance at the Central Sussex and East Surrey Commissioning Alliance – an alliance of CCGs.

She said: “There was a really cold snap that saw this increased activity in April.”

Ms Valentine said that the issues were not specific to Brighton and Hove and that A&E departments across the country had struggled to hit their targets.

She said that another target that Brighton and Hove struggled to meet was the referral to treatment (RTT) time target.

In April 4,677 patients in in Brighton and Hove were seen within the 18-weeks RTT target.

This was 76.6 per cent, which was well below the 92.2 per cent target.

Seven per cent of patients sent for diagnostic tests in Brighton and Hove had to wait longer than the six-week target. The benchmark is just 1 per cent.

Some of BSUH’s diagnostic scanners broke down over the winter, causing problems for the trust at a time of high demand.

BSUH has installed a new CT scanner which it hopes will clear the waiting list.

The trust is expected to outsource some scans as it tries to reduce the backlog.

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