Number of people waiting over 12 hours for an A&E bed falls significantly

Date published: 28 April 2021

Local emergency department performance figures show that the number of patients waiting over 12 hours for a bed has fallen significantly, according to the latest data.

In the three months to December 2020, 736 patients at Pennine Acute Hospitals experienced delays of 12 hours or more. However, in the three months to March 2021, this figure had fallen by 64% to 265.

Emergency admissions at type one emergency departments in Oldham and Bury reached the highest point since the start of the pandemic in March 2021, with 22,024 attendances across hospitals run by Pennine Acute – a 34% increase on the previous month, and a 20% increase from March 2020.

Type 1 A&E departments are consultant-led 24-hour services with full resuscitation facilities and designated accommodation for receiving patients.

There are two Pennine Acute hospitals with A&E departments: The Royal Oldham Hospital and Fairfield General Hospital in Bury. Pennine Acute also runs Rochdale Infirmary but this site does not have a type 1 A&E department.

Charlie McGibney, director of urgent and emergency care improvement at the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, which brings together Salford Royal and Pennine Acute trusts, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an effect on all areas of the NHS, particularly in the run up to and over winter, when the areas served by Pennine Acute Hospitals were particularly hard hit, especially in Oldham; it is testament to the hard work and dedication of colleagues that we have continued to provide vital services during this period, including our emergency departments.

“The work of our staff at Pennine Acute Hospitals, whilst operating under immense pressure, has been incredible and I would like to reassure everyone that our emergency department is available to anyone who needs it and that we will continue to work hard to ensure patients receive timely care, we would however, urge people to think carefully about which service is appropriate for their needs before coming to A&E.”

National data show an increase of 34% in type one emergency departments between February and March 2021, whilst the number of patients staying in an Emergency Department for 12 hours or more dropped by one third for the same time period.


Royal Oldham Hospital Accident and Emergency Department
Royal Oldham Hospital Accident and Emergency Department


Responding to the national data, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Before the pandemic, our Emergency Departments were crowded, patients were having care administered to them in corridors, and exit block was a serious problem.

“Looking at the sheer number of emergency admissions, we have concerns that we are beginning to head in that direction again and we will soon see a return of these terrible practices. We must not let things go back to how they were before.

“As public life slowly returns to normal over the summer, there is widespread fear among health professionals of an Autumn wave of covid, followed by another brutal winter bringing seasonal flu and influenza, all while the NHS is trying to recover and tackle the backlog of elective care.

“Our fear is that without extensive preparation, the NHS could once again be brought to a breaking point, nearly unable to cope and nearly unable to provide care for everyone who needs it.

“We must not let staff down, neither hospitals nor Emergency Departments, by being underprepared and under-resourced for what could come in the coming months. We cannot once again let Emergency Departments become the safety-net of the system.

“This summer we have the time to make these changes, time for transformation. If we miss this opportunity, we could quickly return to how things were before.”

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