Casualty patient figures soar

Wednesday, 19 September, 2007

THE number of patients treated in accident and emergency at a Suffolk hospital has increased by more than 40% in the past decade, new figures reveal.

Last year more than 45,000 people were rushed into the unit at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

This is up nearly 12,000 compared with 1997, when 32,417 people were admitted to the hospital's accident and emergency.

The figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, have prompted Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley to stress the 'crucial importance' of the area's accident department to the people of west Suffolk.

The East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA) is currently carrying out a major review of all hospitals in the region and one of the areas being looked is accident and emergency departments.

Although the SHA states it is too early to say what the findings of its review might be, with the first briefings expected this December, Mr Ruffley said he hoped the figures would cement the future of accident and emergency at West Suffolk Hospital.

He said: 'We need a high quality local accident and emergency at the West Suffolk Hospital. Where else will these 45,000 people attend?

'Ipswich Hospital and Addenbrooke's Hospital are both over 29 miles from the West Suffolk - that is roughly a 40 minute journey and is the sort of distance that can cost lives.'

More than 3,100 people were brought into the hospital as a result of a fall in 2006, making it the single biggest complaint dealt with by accident and emergency staff.

The hospital spokesman said: 'There are no plans to close the West Suffolk Hospital's accident and emergency department.

'However, we welcome David Ruffley's continued support for our quality A&E service that is treating increasingly more patients.'

A spokeswoman for the SHA said: 'The review is looking at what our priorities need to be. There has been no discussion as yet as to how anything might be reconfigured.'