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East Lancs A&E 'fails first-time patients'
HUNDREDS of patients are returning to A&E only days after being discharged, new figures have revealed.
Only once in the past 12 months has East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust managed to achieve its target for emergency readmissions at its Royal Blackburn, Burnley General and Accrington Victoria sites.
The results have been slammed as 'potentially very dangerous' by a health scrutiny boss, while local MPs said they were extremely concerned by the figures.
Campaigners fear pressure to see patients within four hours means some are not being dealt with properly on their first visit.
But hospital chiefs said they had seen a rise in 'inappropriate attendances' by some patients and they were working with health professionals to look at the issue of frequent re-attenders.
Coun Ronald O'Keefe, chairman of Blackburn with Darwen Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, said he was aware of a case involving a two-month-old baby with skin discolouration who had to be readmitted to the A&E department of Royal Blackburn Hospital, after doctors first told his mother there was nothing wrong.
On attending A&E for a second time with his unsatisfied mother, an infected surgery wound was found and he was sent to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Coun O’Keefe said: “This is a major concern and we must make sure that the figures are not being massaged to hit targets.
“If people are being sent away when they have not been seen properly, this could be potentially very dangerous.”
ELHT bosses have battled to meet A&E targets of 95 out of every 100 patients being seen within four hours - achieving it by 0.28 per cent, but critics have questioned whether this is at the expense of reattendance rates.
Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigel Evans said: "This should be about patient care.
"It is pointless people being seen in A&E, not getting the proper treatment and then having to come back shortly afterwards for more treatment.
“Senior officials need to look into these figures. They are an alarm bell that must be listened to."
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said the readmission rates were 'key indicators' for hospitals.
He said: “I think the readmission figures are a better indication of a hospital’s performance than the arbitrary target waiting times.
“I am very concerned by this and will be raising the issue with board members.”
The ELHT readmission rate for the past year was 6.8 per cent, against a target of five per cent.
It came second worst out of 23 hospital trusts in the North West based on average readmission figures within 30 days, with a score of 905.
The worst performing trust was Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, covering the east side of Manchester, with an average score of 1,510. The best was Trafford with 86.
Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Kate Hollern said: "The problem with the health service meeting targets is that other things suffer.
"It is just not acceptable that people are being discharged and then having to come back to hospital shortly afterwards."
Rus McLean, who is part of the patient liason group with the trust, said: “I am concerned, but not surprised, at the figures regarding re-admittance.
"I firmly believe that a lot of these problems are not only caused by some patients accessing services inappropriately – but that they are being misdirected by 111 – and that worries me no end.
"We need to look very closely at the 111 trial and serious issues need to be addressed. The new 111 service is placing a huge strain on the limited resources of the local health economy.”
Senior medics have claimed the figures can be explained by a combination of high intensity users, including people with drink, drugs or mental health problems. And reattendances may be for a different medical reason, they said.
A trust spokesman said some ‘high-intensity’ users may attend A&E between five and 60 times per year.
He said: “We audit all re-attendances to understand the reasons why and so we can improve our services.
“We also share data with local GPs and health professionals so they are able to follow up frequent re-attenders and provide the relevant health or social care support “Extra efforts will be made to promote the use of the new NHS 111 telephone helpline, to determine whether cases require an emergency ward attendance.”
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said he would take the matter up with the heath authority. He said: “What is certain is that the health service is under considerable pressure because of cuts and quite unnecessary reorganisation."
Tim Ellis, regional officer for Unison in the north west, said: “There is a lot of pressure on the trust and on the staff to meet the targets at a time of less resources.
“The staff are committed and want to work to meet the targets and the expectations of patients, but something won’t work when there’s more patients and less money.”