The number of patients waiting 12 hours or more at A&E in Preston and Chorley has increased eight-fold in just four years, new statistics have revealed.
A total of 426 accident and emergency patients waited 12 hours or more to be treated, transferred or admitted last year.
That compares to just 53 left waiting for half a day or more in 2011/12 – although last year’s figures were significantly lower than in 2014/15 when a high of 640 was recorded.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has revealed its emergency departments are seeing an extra 4,000 patients a year.
It also says there are “at least 60 people” in hospital every day who cannot be discharged because arrangements are not in place to meet their ongoing health and social care needs.
The most likely group to be left with extremely long waits were those aged 80-89. None under the age of 19 had to wait for 12 hours or more, the figures showed.
In hospitals throughout England 48,128 people faced waits of 12-plus hours in 2011-12, By 2016 that had reached 185,017 people, including 4,080 children aged nine or younger, and 55,969 aged 80-plus.
NHS Digital released the figures during a period of intensive media scrutiny of the NHS and its ability to cope with an ever-increasing demand, with trusts across the country struggling with a huge demand.
The news came on the same day that a Preston man claimed his 72-year-old mother was forced to wait on a trolley at the Royal Preston Hospital for around 40 hours last winter because doctors had no bed for her.
Joe Robinson said mum Jean, who has long-term breathing problems, was “left in a corridor and forgotten about” because the hospital was unable to cope with an avalanche of new patients coming through A&E.
“There were lines and lines of beds on the corridor with people just lying there waiting to go to a ward,” he said at home in Sulby Drive, Ribbleton.
“Mum was on oxygen and the mask was making her face sore. She was quite distressed throughout, but no-one apologised to her.”
Mrs Robinson was back in hospital last week with an infection. But, claims son Joe, she was discharged from a ward too soon, only to be taken straight back in by ambulance less than an hour after arriving home.
“I know the hospitals are struggling and the staff are working flat out. But patients shouldn’t be going home to make way for others when they clearly aren’t well enough to be discharged.”
Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We sincerely apologise for any distress that has been caused. Our priority is to always provide excellent care with compassion for our patients; we have discussed the issue with Jean and her family and we are looking into the matter.
“If Jean and her family wish to take the issue further we would encourage them to contact our Customer Care team.”
Speaking about the general situation in A&E in central Lancashire, Suzanne Hargreaves, operations director at the trust, said: “Over the last year we have seen over 4,000 more patients attend our emergency department compared to the year before.
“We are now seeing a constant steady rise in the number of elderly people with urgent care needs both attending and being admitted to hospital and an increase in the length of time patients are staying in hospital.
“In our hospitals every day there are at least 60 people, often many more, who no longer require our specialist care because arrangements aren’t in place to meet their ongoing health and social care needs.”
She continued: “Our priority is to provide the highest standards of care for our patients and we continue to do everything we possibly can to maintain all of our services, however at times patients who do not have life threatening conditions may need to wait longer than we would like whilst we treat patients with serious conditions who need urgent care.
“I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who has had to wait a long time to be seen, we try our very best to deal with patients as quickly as possible.
“We hope patients and their families can see that all of our staff are absolutely committed to making sure anyone who requires urgent treatment is admitted to hospital promptly, and are doing all we can to continue to provide the highest standard of care.”
A row has broken out between Prime Minister Theresa May, who said the health service got the funding it asked for, and NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, who described that statement as “stretching it.”
Mrs May said the NHS had got what it asked for in its five-year plan, saying: “We gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required. So funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.”
But in October, MPs said Mrs May’s claims that the Government was putting £10bn extra into the NHS were untrue and said the £10bn figure could only be reached by adding an extra year to the spending review period, changing the date from which the real terms increase is calculated and disregarding the total health budget.
Mr Stevens said: “Well it’s right that by 2020 NHS England will be getting an extra £10bn over the course of six years.
“I don’t think that’s the same as saying we are getting more than we asked for over five years because it was a five-year forward view, not a six-year forward view.
“In the here and now there are very real pressures. This is not because hospitals are being feckless. It doesn’t help anybody to pretend there aren’t finance gaps.”
County Councillor Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “There are huge demands on the whole health and social care system during the winter which is why we’ve made up to £500k available to help to ease pressures on our hospitals.
“Our social care team is surveying the situations at local hospitals and identifying measures we can take to speed up discharges. The £500k is being used to fund any extra action they take.
“We face challenges caused by reducing budgets and rising demands on our services. We are working very closely with NHS organisations and other partners on how we can manage future demand.
“I am committed to doing all we can for our frail elderly. citizens over the winter months.”