Patient’s 234 A&E visits in one year

L&D Hospital
L&D Hospital

A patient at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital visited casualty 234 times over the course of a year.

Figures obtained by the BBC in a Freedom of Information request revealed the L&D held the dubious top spot for most visits from a patient during 2012-13.

Doctors warned that the 12,000 people nationally who made more than ten visits to the same A&E were adding to the mounting pressures on hospitals this winter.

An L&D spokesman said: “We know that a tiny minority of patients have very complex health and social needs which are not easily addressed in any setting and these people visit many different health services that are available very frequently.

“Anyone arriving at an A&E department might require clinical investigation and treatment, and at this hospital, we have diagnosed very serious illness, including cancer, in people whom others might regard as abusing A&E with their frequent visits.

“For some people, A&E really is the last resort for them to turn to and all emergency departments have a legal duty of care for people who arrive with worrying symptoms.”

The hospital has increased the number of doctors and nurses in A&E to cope with demand and opened a specialist paediatric emergency unit.

Nearby hospitals such as Milton Keynes Hospital and Peterborough City Hospital are currently on black alert over a shortage of bed caused by high numbers of emergency patients.

Black alert is the highest possible level of crisis put in place in hospitals, and is one step up from the serious red alert.

An L&D spokeperson said whilst they are not on black alert, they are extremely busy as is expected at this time of year and there is pressure on bed numbers so they are working with local health and social care services to manage the situation.

The spokesperson said the L&D has one of the busiest emergency deparments in the Midlands and East of England but is one of only three hospitals in the region which consistendly acheives the A&E waiting time requirement to see and treat 95 per cent of patients in under four hours.

Last year, the L&D emergency department dealt with 80,000 episodes of care –so the patient who visited 234 times made up 0.3 per cent of the cases.

A&E staff also directed more than 30,000 minor cases to the GP Urgent Clinic which is at the hospital.

Dr Cliff Mann of the College of Emergency Medicine told the BBC there were a variety of issues which led patients to become frequent visitors, including mental health and problems such as drug and alcohol abuse.

He said this suggested that with better support in the community, particularly from social care, repeat visits could be prevented.

Others may be using A&E units because they find struggle with English and find it difficult to navigate the NHS system.

At the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, one patient visited 223 times in 2012-13 whilst at Hull Royal Infirmary someone visited 197 times.

Of the 12,000 people making more than ten visits, just over 150 attended more than 50 times.