A neighbouring hospital has seen a four-fold increase in patients since Chorley Hospital’s A&E department closed.
Now Wigan hospital has issued a ‘stay away’ notice for all non-life threatening cases as Chorley folk have been forced to make the 10-mile trip since the closure in April.
Hospital bosses said they had seen a four-fold increase in people with a Chorley postcode attending its A&E, and it has dealt with 260 additional patients since the service was downgraded in Lancashire.
Now the over-strecthed Wigan Infirmary has been forced to close its doors to all but life threatening cases, saying the patient increase means they cannot cope with the “unprecedented demand”.
Adlington man Andrew Brooks was at the A&E on Tuesday night with his elderly mother and said the situation was: “Worse than chaos – it was really that bad.”
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, who had raised fears over the impact of the closure of Chorley A&E, said: “It doesn’t help to be proved right.”
Mary Fleming, director of operations and performance at Wigan Infirmary, said there had been a large rise in the number of people attending A&E there.
She said: “The A&E has been experiencing a significant increase in patients attending the department over the last seven months, November 2015 to May 2016.
“We have seen an increase of over 3,000 additional patients during this period when compared with last year.
“We believe that some of the contributing factors are the introduction of NHS 111, a reduction in patients accessing GP out-of-hours services and the downgrading of a neighbouring A&E department.”
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “What we are saying is let’s have some common sense, let’s have a reality check, let’s own up and say this is having a real impact on other A&Es.
“We’ve got to reopen Chorley, the sooner the better.
“It’s time for people to get off their high horses, accept they have made a mistake, let’s put the mistake right by reopening Chorley A&E.
“We don’t want to put lives at risk, and that’s what they are now doing. This is putting real pressure on the ambulance service and other A&Es, and when people are being asked to stay away, that tells you there’s a real problem.
“The solution to this is to reopen Chorley A&E. It may not be the complete solution, but it will ease the pressure.”
Wigan’s MP Lisa Nandy has called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene to reopen Chorley’s A&E unit, which has been temporarily shut since April and replaced with an urgent care centre.
She said: “MPs from across the region have raised concerns about this ongoing and unacceptable situation in Chorley and the impact it is clearly now having on patients.
“I’ve asked the Health Secretary to urgently intervene to reopen Chorley and relieve the acute pressure on Wigan and other hospitals in the region.”
Andrew Brooks, from Adlington, went to Wigan’s A&E on Tuesday night after his 76-year-old mother Patricia was taken ill due to the heat inflaming her fibromyalgia condition.
She was taken by ambulance to Wigan Infirmary, where Andrew says he saw ambulances queuing to drop off patients.
He said: “What I saw inside was absolutely horrendous. It was like a nightclub on a Friday night, there was that many people there.
It was unbelievable. There were some very ill people in the hospital and waiting rooms. It was worse than chaos - it was really that bad.
“There were ten ambulances outside and about 20 paramedics inside waiting for stretchers for them. The hospital staff were under a lot of pressure.
“I know people think this is what they are paid to do but when you see it like this, it is shocking.
“My mum is OK now, her condition started to get much better by itself and we ended up leaving the hospital without seeing anybody.
“Closing Chorley A&E has put massive pressure on Wigan and Preston and I don’t know what to do. Chorley needs to be reopened to stop something bad from happening. It is just madness.”
Ms Fleming added: “(Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust) are very proud of our doctors, nurses and frontline staff who are working incredibly hard under extreme pressure to make sure patients with serious and life-threatening conditions receive emergency treatment appropriately.
“Patients with minor ailments and illnesses will be expected to wait whilst we make sure our most vulnerable patients receive urgent care.”
People who attend A&E whose condition is not considered serious will be expected to wait until a doctor is available to see them. This will be outside the expected four-hour waiting time.”
But Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, denied the situation at Chorley was having a significant impact.
She said: “We have been in regular contact with our neighbouring emergency departments to assess any impact that has been felt following the closure of the emergency department at Chorley.
“The temporary arrangements have not caused a significant increase in the number of patients attending Royal Preston Hospital.”