Accident and Emergency waiting time targets were not met in Wirral during what the council described as a “challenging winter”.

Arrowe Park Hospital did not “consistently achieve” the A&E targets set by the NHS, and the area’s current month average of 86.52% is below the original 95% benchmark.

In a report to be discussed by Wirral council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on March 14, it said: “NHS England revised their position for systems over winter and requested delivery of 90% against the four hour standard for patients to be seen and admitted or discharged within four hours of attendance at A&E.

"The original target was 95%. Whilst Wirral has not yet consistently achieved this, we are averaging 86.72% (as of February 26).”

The report, entitled Unplanned Care Update (A&E Delivery), said the performance for January at Arrowe Park Hospital in Upton, Wirral’s A&E service, was 86.5%, December – 80.4%, November – 85.7%, October – 87.8%, September – 87.5%, August – 79.2% and July – 76.9%.

Anthony Middleton, director of operations and performance at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: “Winter is always demanding for the NHS and here in Wirral our colleagues continue to work unbelievably hard to face this challenge head-on.

“Arrowe Park Hospital remains extremely busy with many patients coming to A&E needing more complex medical attention, all of which takes greater time and resource.

“Our hospital and partner teams should be credited for dealing with such a pressured few months, but despite our very best efforts we recognise some patients will have experienced greater waits in our A&E than we ideally want of which we can only apologise.

“We advise the public where possible of alternatives that may be more appropriate to A&E. Walk-in centres can help with minor injuries and illnesses with no appointment needed. Pharmacies can also offer a range of expert advice. If it is not an emergency, advice is also available 24 hours a day by calling 111.”

Describing the “challenging winter”, which was “mirrored in systems around the country”, the report said rates of admissions remained high.

It added: “Flu has had an impact this year, with highest numbers of people needing to be admitted during December and January, at one point the hospital had over 40 people with flu in an acute bed.”

It also said there was a “significant” take up of the flu vaccine, adding: “Whilst we have experienced pockets of sickness, we have been able to retain adequate staffing levels. The only service which was temporarily hit short term was the reablement service, which lost 15 staff at the same time, due to flu. This effected referrals for a seven day period at the end of December.”

Although Wirral was in the bottom quartile for performance against the four-hour standard during the first two quarters of the year, the third quarter saw “significant improvement”, so it is now in the top third.

“Overall, positive feedback has been received and there has been acknowledgement that we [NHS England and the health board] are working well together and step improvements are being made,” it added.

Cllr Ian Lewis, leader of the council’s Conservative group, said: “The extra £1.8m given to the NHS in Wirral for winter pressures has helped – in January alone, we saw 8,195 people arrive at A&E and treated on time – but I’m keen to see us find out why there are such big differences in the rate of emergency admissions between GP practices. As the National Audit Office has identified, this varies massively between areas.”

He highlighted the positives of the report, including how the number of people stuck in hospital due to delayed transfers had remained below 2% – one of the best in the region.

But he added: “I’m keen we also look at those hospitals elsewhere in the country which are meeting, and exceeding, the four hour target, to see if what they are doing can be done in Wirral.”

The report also revealed a number of statistics on other aspects of progress and development across the unplanned care system, and recommends councillors at next week’s meeting to “note the improving position”.

It said in terms of home care, the board continues to have a waiting list of 70 people on average, although the “challenging” circumstances meant it reached above 80 on two days in January.

An extra 68 beds were opened to patients over winter at both Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge to accommodate the seasons’ demand, although 20 were “de-escalated” at the beginning of February.

The report also said there was also a “positive take up” of both planned and same-day GP appointments, and walk-in centre performance over winter had been “consistently high”.

There were also a “very low” number of mental health patients waiting more than the four-hour standard, with money invested to “support admission avoidance and timely discharges”.

When contacted for comment, the council said because the document was part of the reporting process followed by the NHS, it would not comment.