December 30, 2022 5.45 pm This story is over 16 months old

Flashback 2022: Lincolnshire hospitals at breaking point with A&E queues and ambulance delays

Hospital trust says it’s working hard to improve patient care

Long hospital delays have become the norm this year as Lincolnshire’s NHS has come under immense strain.

Stories of seriously ill patients spending hours waiting for A&E beds or ambulances have rarely been out of the media.

The head of United Lincolnshire Health Trust said people are “no longer shocked” by long delays, and the problems have become “normalised”.

He pointed to a CQC report saying that “the health and care system is gridlocked and unable to operate effectively.”

Although hospitals’ pandemic restrictions have now relaxed, it has been far from business as usual.

New figures revealed that 355 patients spent more than 30 hours waiting for a bed in Lincolnshire County Hospital this year. The longest endured a wait of almost 50 hours.

A former nurse who was admitted to the overburdened A&E department described it as “a very dangerous place” where staff didn’t have time to care for patients.

The hospital trust responded that emergency teams were doing everything they could while extremely busy.

Andrew Morgan, Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Health Trust | Photo: LDRS/Lincolnite

ULHT Chief Executive Andrew Morgan has repeatedly apologised for delays faced by patients, saying hospitals were struggling to deal with the unprecedented volume coming through their doors.

The delays in discharging healthy patients has been suggested as one cause for the shortage of beds.

Mr Morgan appealed for care homes and other healthcare organisations to ensure there is help available for people who are ready to leave hospital.

“People who have finished their hospital treatment need to be somewhere else. I hope others will work with me to make that happen,” he told The Lincolnite.

East Midlands Ambulance Service has also been under pressure, failing to hit any of its response targets in June.

There were delays in the average time it took to get to everyone from the most critically-ill patients (nearly ten minutes) to the less serious (more than six hours for the majority).

Ambulances have missed targets to get to callers | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

2022 was also the year that Grantham patients lost their A&E for good, meaning those needing serious emergency help will have to travel to an extra 30 miles to Lincoln instead.

The hospital’s services will be downgraded to a UTC, causing a councillor to warn “lives will be lost”.

In an effort to unblock hospital wards, the government has allocated Lincolnshire £2.5million of a ‘discharge fund’.

Lincolnshire hospitals are also trialling the Breaking the Cycle programme, which aims to move waiting patients onto wards quicker. The early feedback has been positive, although it doesn’t solve long-term problems. 

In addition, there are fears that this flu season will be worse than usual after two years of social distancing.

Every winter seems to bring a crisis for the NHS, but most of the last year has felt as though the system was creaking at the seams.

Hopefully, 2023 can only bring an improvement.

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