Summary of report content
Healthwatch Cheshire undertook a snapshot view of A&E departments in the county in July 2021, after an approach by members of the local A&E delivery board in the context of very high numbers of people attending A&E. They wanted to understand the reasons for this. Engagement took place from 19 to 23 July 2021 and they spoke to 266 people.
Over seven in ten people had not tried to contact NHS111 before attending A&E. Many were unaware that this was the process they were meant to follow. People who had been given an appointment to attend by NHS111 reported that they were told upon arrival in A&E that due to pressures on the department they would not be following appointments and people would have to wait the same as people who had just gone straight to A&E. It is noted that NHS111 offer a time of arrival rather than a specific appointment as A&E are unable to keep to specific appointments.
Over half had not attempted to go anywhere else before coming to A&E. People said this was for reasons such as a perception they would be sent to A&E anyway, or they thought it was more convenient and would be seen quicker, and a perception that they would not be able to get a GP appointment.
Of those who had attempted to go elsewhere before A&E, nearly three quarters had first tried to access their GP. Some of these people said that the GP themselves had advised them to go to A&E. Other people mentioned being advised by receptionists to go to A&E due to a lack of GP appointments.
Across all three hospitals, nearly seven in ten had not previously attended A&E in the past 12 months, suggesting that the majority of people are not repeat attendees.
Generally people complimented the staff on their attitude, and were understanding of the busy conditions they were working in.
This year’s A&E Watch took place on what turned out to be the hottest week of the year so far. Of the three A&E departments, only the Countess of Chester had air conditioning in the department, which contributed to a difficult experience for people in waiting areas in Leighton and Macclesfield Hospitals, with long wait times and busy departments.
It did not appear that COVID-19 social distancing protocols put in place by the hospitals were being followed successfully due to a large number of people attending the departments. Waiting rooms were often full, exceeding the limits on the number of people allowed at any one time that were self-imposed by the departments. Signs not to sit on seats were being moved by people so that they could sit down, and no cleaning of seats was taking place in between patients.
The report doesn’t contain recommendations, but there are responses from providers to the findings.