A&E waiting times last month were the second-worst on record, new figures revealed today - and in the West Midlands, it’s a bleaker story still.
Across the whole country, 85.3 per cent of patients were seen within the target time of four hours - below the 95 per cent standard - while in this region, most trusts performed below the national average.
NHS England said the “worst flu season in years” had put extra strain on the system, adding to the usual expected winter pressures.
Birmingham Women's And Children's NHS Foundation Trust reported the best figures in the region, at 97.6 per cent - the only trust to beat the 95 per cent target.
Shrewsbury And Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SATH) in Shropshire had the worst, with just 66 per cent - down from 69.3 per cent in December.
In response, Sara Biffen, interim Chief Operating Officer at SATH, said:
Our emergency departments, in common with departments across the country, continue to deal with very high attendances and complex conditions.
Here are the figures for the West Midlands for patients seen in under four hours, by trust:
Birmingham Women's And Children's NHS Foundation Trust - 97.6%
South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust - 87.2%
Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - 85.3%
The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust - 84.7%
Sandwell And West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust - 82.5%
The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust - 81.8%
University Hospitals Coventry And Warwickshire NHS Trust - 81.4%
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust - 78.4%
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust - 76.4%
Heart Of England NHS Foundation Trust - 74.0%
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust - 73.3%
Wye Valley NHS Trust - 72.1%
University Hospitals Of North Midlands NHS Trust - 69.1%
Shrewsbury And Telford Hospital NHS Trust - 66.0%
SATH also reported 30 patients having to wait more than 12 hours to be admitted, after the decision to admit was made.
However, the University Hospital of North Midlands performed worst on that measure, with 272 patients kept waiting over half a day.
Patients waiting over 12 hours:
University Hospitals Of North Midlands NHS Trust - 272
Shrewsbury And Telford Hospital NHS Trust - 30
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust - 8
The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust - 4
Wye Valley NHS Trust - 2
The ramifications of the A&E crisis go well beyond the departmens themselves, of course.
There has been much publicity about the NHS England guidance urging trusts to cancel all non-emergency appointments and procedures, to free up both bed staff and staff, who can be redeployed.
But for those patients waiting surgery, the wait can be excruciating.
Christopher Blair is among them. He was due to go under the knife today (Thursday) - but, after arriving at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham last night expecting to be admitted for a pre-operative scan, he was told at the last minute to go home.
“They just said ‘sorry, there’s no bed for you. You have to go home’,” he said.
“Now I’m just waiting.”
Christopher, who runs the Chimera collectible cards shop in Brierley Hill, Dudley, suffers with a degenerative spinal condition.
He was pushed to the top of the waiting list by his neurosurgeon - and says if he doesn’t have treatment soon, he’s been told he could be left permanently paralysed.
I’m scared. Very scared. I’m not exactly the most fit person, but I assumed I was going to be able to walk until I got into my old age.
This is Christopher's story:
Karl Stevens, spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the QE, said the cancellation was “regrettable”.
He added: “Increases in the number of emergency patients and winter pressures can unfortunately mean that some patients requiring complex procedures, including spinal surgery, are cancelled due to the resulting lack of critical care or specialist beds.”
Christopher has, as yet, not been given a date for his rescheduled surgery.