AMBULANCE patients were diverted away from their local A&E department at an average rate of once every four days in 2011.
Now a council watchdog is investigating why Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust made A&E departments unavailable to ambulances for between two and 10 hours on 87 occasions last year.
Patients are often diverted from Pinderfields A&E when it is full and ambulance drivers sent elsewhere.
Adrian O’Malley, of Mid Yorkshire Unison, said: “They can’t cope with the amount of patients. The hospital is absolutely jam-packed. Everybody knows the place is full and staff are completely rushed off their feet.”
The council committee is looking at why the trust had so many ‘service transfer’ incidents last year.
The figures emerged after the trust’s controversial decision to close Pontefract A&E overnight on a temporary basis because of a lack of doctors. But Mid Yorkshire said the closure put no further pressure on Pinderfields, which has struggled to meet A&E targets.
Trust bosses said Pontefract A&E would reopen as soon as enough doctors were recruited to run it.
The service transfer figures were made public after the trust said 7.3 patients on average per day were transferred to Dewsbury because Pinderfields was at capacity between April and November last year. The figure was supplied to the council’s health and social care overview and scrutiny committee, chaired by Coun Betty Rhodes.
She said: “We will be investigating this further. There is an impact on the patient but also their relatives, who have to meet the cost of transport which can be very expensive.”
Mid Yorkshire pointed out that Pinderfields A&E had never been closed to patients. The trust said 24-hour care was also available at Dewsbury.
Consultant Matt Shepherd said that, typically, patients were taken to their nearest A&E, but this depended on how serious their condition was.
He said: “Equally if one hospital A&E department is dealing with a surge of patients it makes good clinical sense for the patient to be taken directly by ambulance to another of the trust’s A&Es where they will be seen more quickly.
“My A&E consultant colleagues, doctors and nursing staff work closely with ambulance staff to make sure patients get the best possible and timely clinical care.”