The highest ever one-day tally of patients occurred when 604 people turned up at the accident and emergency and urgent care centres across both the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals on 7th June.
The figure emerged at a recent meeting of Central Lancashire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which also heard that the attendances were “appropriate” - and that the individuals were ”acutely unwell”.
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“Lots of the stuff that we do around admission avoidance would not have stopped that, because they are patients that did need to be [seen in] hospital,” said Helen Curtis, the CCGs’ director of quality.
The meeting was also told that average A&E attendances across Central Lancashire had risen from 173 per day in February to 232 by May.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) is far from alone in seeing a spike in demand for emergency care. At least 30 NHS trusts have also reportedly set daily attendance records so far this month.
Meanwhile, NHS data shows that the number of people presenting at emergency departments across England last month topped two million for the first time since the pandemic began.
While the record set at LTH does not appear to have arisen as a result of misuse of its A&E and urgent care centres on that particular occasion, hospital bosses are nevertheless appealing for help from the public to reduce pressure on services. As the Post reported on Monday, the trust has seen its Covid patients triple in the space of a week to stand at 61 as of 17th June - with just under a third of them suspected of having contracted it since admitted to hospital.
In a video message posted on the LTH website last week, the organisation’s medical director, Dr. Gerry Skailes, said: “We’re asking people to seek appropriate alternatives to A&E wherever possible.
“Unless you’re very ill or seriously injured, hospital is not the best place to receive your care and you may experience a long wait. If in doubt, please call NHS 111, who’ll be able to direct you to the right service for your specific needs - which could include your GP, pharmacist or your local urgent care centre.
“Please do remember that if you do need the help only a hospital can provide, our doors will always be open to you - and our fantastic teams will do all that they can to provide you with excellent, compassionate care,” Dr. Skailes pledged.
One Lancashire Post reader said her husband had seen first-hand the pressure that staff were under when he took their son to A&E at the Royal Preston during the early hours of 6th June - 24 hours before the record attendance was set.
He told her that the children’s A&E waiting room was “unbearable”.
"Nurses were doing their best and triaging kids, but the room was packed with very young children and it was boiling hot.
"My husband established from a nurse that, after being there over three hours already, there was still going to be another five-hour wait to be seen by a doctor.
"He just had to walk out - there is no way a young child can sit in a hospital waiting room for eight hours through the night. The staff were doing their best but it was just crazy," the woman recalled.
LTH was approached for further comment.