ATTENDANCES at Leighton Hospital A&E are back on the rise after a sharp fall when lockdown began.

NHS services around the country have been reminding public that they are still here to help with health concerns as numbers attending hospitals for non-coronavirus issues began to dwindle.

According to figures from NHS England, A&E attendances dropped from 7,551 in February, to 6,373 in March when lockdown began, and then a low of 4,343 during the first full month of lockdown in April.

But the latest figures from NHS England suggest Leighton’s A&E is getting busier again, with 6,009 attendances in May – a 38 per cent increase.

This year’s figures are still significantly below attendances in 2019, when there were 8,384 in May, 8,174 in April and 8,028 in March.

However, attendances at Leighton’s A&E in 2019 were higher than usual, with the hospital seeing around 1,000 more attendances in June 2019 than June 2018.

That had led to difficulty in the hospital meeting targets on A&E waiting times, an issue highlighted in Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s recent Care Quality Commission inspection.

The department had failed to meet the national target on waiting times in every month since August 2017 until this April, when attendances plummeted.

In a report presented at this month’s board meeting, James Sumner, chief executive at the trust, said: “The number of people attending the A&E department for non-Covid related reasons is beginning to increase, as it is across the country.

Winsford Guardian:

“At present, this is at manageable levels and there are sufficient beds available to enable this.

“Plans are in place, should this increase to previous levels.”

A&E departments across England were still 42 per cent less busy in May 2020 than May 2019, and the public is being reminded that they are safe despite the pandemic.

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "Emergency Departments are safe and if you are injured or seriously ill you should go right away.

“If patients have an issue but only have mild non-urgent symptoms it is important to seek help from the right source. Pharmacists, NHS 111 and GPs are all there to provide care.

“By choosing the right service patients can get the help they need while keeping the NHS safe and reducing the risk of further spread of coronavirus."

The NHS figures show emergency admissions at Mid Cheshire Hospitals followed a similar pattern as A&E attendances, rising from 2,603 in April to 2,948 in May.

In May 2019, there were 3,279 emergency admissions.

Dr Simon Walsh, British Medical Association emergency medicine lead, said: “It’s incredibly worrying to see that patients haven’t been using the NHS as much as expected during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Even though we’re currently battling a virus, it’s important that anyone who still needs our help, knows they can get it.

“Putting off seeing the GP or going to A&E for emergency care at this time can not only cause a backlog in the NHS once people feel more comfortable about seeking help, but can also potentially damage patients’ health, especially those with chronic conditions.

“We appreciate the public being so considerate at this time and really thinking about whether they need to use the NHS, but our principles have not changed – we will be there for anyone who needs us, pandemic or no pandemic.”