Why are the A&Es under so much pressure?
People coming to our A&E departments often have to wait longer than we would like. During the summer we have seen more people attending their local A&E departments in Ashford and Margate, and spikes in numbers at certain times of the day makes it harder for us to see and treat patients quickly.
We also have an average of 13 additional patients a day going to Ashford and 10 additional patients a day going to Margate who would have previously gone to the Urgent Care Centre at Kent and Canterbury Hospital. At the moment the K&C Hospital can only see patients for minor illness and injuries, although this service is available 24/7.
We assess and prioritise patients who come to A&E so we can ensure we see the most critically ill patients first. This means some people attending the A&E department could wait a lot longer.
We carefully monitor our services to ensure that patients are receiving good, safe standards of care, but having to wait for a long time in A&E can be uncomfortable and isn’t a good experience for many people. We are working hard to improve this.
What we are doing about it
We are working hard to recruit more permanent staff. We are relying on locum doctors to fill about half of the vacancies we have in our Emergency Departments, which makes it more difficult to ensure there are enough staff on shift for the additional numbers of people arriving. We have had some success in attracting permanent staff with 10 more doctors joining the Emergency Departments in the next two months, but we still need more.
Our emergency departments are also relatively small and not designed for large numbers of people, so we are doing some building work to increase the space available to see people and provide a better environment for sick or injured patients.
At Ashford’s emergency department we are providing three new treatment areas and a new ambulatory care unit for the hospital. (Ambulatory care means hospital treatment for some conditions without the need for an overnight stay in hospital.) The new unit at Ashford will help to relieve pressure on the emergency department by seeing, treating and discharging people who do not need to be admitted to a ward.
At Margate, the space for ambulatory care is being expanded so we can see more people, with a combined surgical assessment unit. A separate area for children will be better for families and the mental health liaison service will be in place 24 hours a day by the end of September.
Please keep A&E for emergencies and use the alternatives instead
There are lots of alternatives to A&E if you don’t need urgent treatment – including if you have burns, sprains and cuts. You will be seen and treated faster if you go to a minor injury unit because you won’t need to wait while people with urgent and life-threatening conditions are being treated. Your pharmacy can also give you advice. Find out more about services near to you here.