New figures released this week by NHS Digital show the
staggering reality of the number of attendances at urgent and
emergency care services across the region's hospitals.
Latest data* shows almost 1.2 million attendances at all types
of A&E departments across the region during 2015/16 and an
overall increase of 4 per cent (equating to over 43,000 more
attendances) since 2014/15.
The figure of 1.2 million attendances last year equates to;
almost half of the entire population of the North East; the entire
NHS workforce in England; the entire population of Cyprus; the
entire population of Iceland (three times over); and is enough to
fill the region's biggest football stadiums (Newcastle, Sunderland
and Middlesbrough) nine times over.
Further to the warning issued by hospital bosses last week, the
region's healthcare leaders are once again calling on the public to
keep services free for those with serious or life threatening
Anyone attending a major A&E department, or calling for an
emergency 999 ambulance with a minor problem, should expect a long
wait as clinical teams must prioritise those with the most pressing
The region's hospitals continue to see unprecedented demand for
urgent and emergency care services with a significant increase in
the number of people, particularly older people, with severe
respiratory infections requiring intensive support for their
The North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust also
remains under intense pressure and is calling on the public not to
call 999 unless it is a serious or life threatening
On average, over 1,000 emergency 999 calls are currently being
received every day in the North East with only around half being
prioritised as red calls which require an immediate eight minute
response. Extra clinicians are working in the region's 999 control
room to help assess the high volume of calls and ensure only those
patients who need an ambulance, receive one.
A cold weather alert has now been issued by the Met Office with
an 80 per cent likelihood of icy conditions and heavy snow which is
likely to increase health risks to vulnerable patients. The
region's NHS is calling on the public to think carefully
Paul Liversidge, chief operating officer at North East Ambulance
Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The need to use 999 wisely is
important all year round but especially so when we're facing such
unprecedented demand. We've seen an increase of 999 calls by
46 per cent over the last two years and this is compounded by the
pressure faced by our local hospitals, as delays in handing over
patients at hospital, has a knock on effect on our ability to
respond to other patients.
"Arriving at A&E in an ambulance won't mean you're
seen any quicker unless you have a serious or life threatening
problem. 999 should only be called for life threatening
emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes and for anything
else, please think before you call us.
"With the predicted cold weather
forecast, we would also like to remind members of the public to
ensure they are prepared - make sure you have all the medication
you require and that your cupboards are stocked up with essentials.
Please also check on your neighbours, especially those who are
Mr David Evans chairs one of the region's A&E delivery
boards and is chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS
Foundation Trust. On behalf of all NHS providers in the north
east, he said:
"The whole NHS continues to see unprecedented demand and
the region's A&E teams and 999 ambulance service must
prioritise those patients whose lives are most at risk. Those
who do access emergency services with minor problems should be
prepared to wait longer than usual.
"The public can really help the NHS at this time by
following our advice in light of the weather forecast and, in
particular, by checking on friends, relatives or neighbours -
particularly older people - who may be at risk from the cold
During 2015/16 the region's hospitals saw a total of 1,190,411
urgent and emergency care attendances and despite the increase in
activity, on average, 94 per cent of patients were seen within four
Mr Evans added: "The North East NHS remains, without question,
one of the best performing regions in the whole country. I
applaud the way in which teams, across all parts of the system, are
responding to the current pressures and continuing to put patient
safety first. On behalf of organisational leaders, we would
like to publicly thank every member of staff for their truly
tremendous efforts at his time."
Date published 11th January 2017
'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient
ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough
- could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'
Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community