Whiston Hospital’s A&E department experienced its busiest month on record in May.
Attendances have continued to rise in recent months, with Whiston’s emergency department pushing through 10,000 attendances in April.
St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s latest board papers have revealed that this has increased even further, with 10,331 attendances in May, the highest on record.
The emergency department also saw 3,075 ambulance trips in May, a number that “continues to rise”, according to Rob Cooper, the trust’s director of operations.
“A&E is a challenge for everybody at the moment, it really is, especially in Cheshire and Mersey,” Mr Cooper said at the trust’s board meeting this week.
“And that’s been picked out, that there’s something within Cheshire and Mersey and the North West that makes A&E even more of a challenge than the rest of the country.
“But our regulator colleagues have yet to find out what that is.”
Whiston’s A&E department saw 425 admissions in a single day during April – its busiest day on record.
In May, 71.7 per cent of patients were seen and discharged within four hours, against a national target of 95 per cent. Performance year to date is 74.3 per cent.
Nikhil Khashu, director of finance and information, sought assurances that safeguards were in place to ensure patient safety at times of high demand.
Mr Cooper said the department does have a protocol in place that triggers when demand reaches a certain level to ensure the safety of patients is maintained.
He explained that certain protocols are enacted to ensure safety of patients when reaches high levels.
Mr Cooper insisted that staff are committed to achieving performance time targets.
“The sad thing about it is, the performance doesn’t actually indicate the commitment and the passion of the staff that continue to really push this every day,” Mr Cooper said.
“And that’s not just A&E, that’s the acute assessment unit and right through to the wards.
“There’s certainly the commitment to deliver, but sometimes the demand stops us from doing that.”
Denis Mahony, a non-executive director, said the emergency department is dealing with “astronomical numbers”, but insisted the trust was “getting the balance right”.
Richard Fraser, the trust’s chairman, said the high attendance figures highlight how “essential” integration work is with local authorities and CCGs, such as St Helens Cares, which will help reduce the flow into A&E.