SOMERSET’S hospitals are still struggling to hit targets over A&E admissions – despite fewer people attending the departments because of the coronavirus.

The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has published statistics comparing A&E admissions during the initial coronavirus outbreak to the same period in 2019.

All four hospitals saw a drop in year-on-year admission – but only one of the four sites was able to hit the government’s targets for seeing people within four hours of admission.

The CCG has said more people were being admitted to A&E with more serious conditions, having failed to seek medical care earlier on.

A report on A&E waiting times came before the CCG’s governing body when it met virtually on Thursday morning (July 30).

At Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, the number of patients being seen at A&E in June was 29 per cent lower between March and June compared to the same period in 2019 – the equivalent of 7,402 fewer admissions.

The hospital failed to meet the government’s target of seeing 95 per cent of patients admitted within four hours – hitting 89.6 per cent over the three-month period.

At Yeovil Hospital, A&E attendances fell 29.8 per cent between March and June compared to the same period in 2019 – a drop of 5,866 admissions.

Despite the Covid pressures on its staff, this hospital did manage to hit the government’s target, seeing 96 per cent of patients within four hours.

The Royal United Hospital in Bath saw A&E admissions fall by 34.3 per cent in the same period compared in 2019 – the equivalent of 10,241 fewer people being admitted.

The hospital managed to see 89.4 per cent patients admitted within this three-month period within the four-hour target time-frame.

Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare saw the largest drop in admissions, with A&E attendance between March and June being down 54.1 per cent – the equivalent of 8,720 fewer admissions.

Of these admissions, 86.3 per cent were seen within four hours.

Alison Henly, the CCG’s chief finance officer and director of performance, said the coronavirus crisis had presented a number of specific challenges for hospital A&E departments.

She said in her written report: “We have lost cubicles and bed spaces within the departments due to social distancing requirements, and seen a reduction in the number of beds due to cohorting.

“The hospitals are seeing higher acuity patients, which could be as a result of patients avoiding to seek medical care over the Covid-19 period and which could lead to a longer period of admission.

“There is also increased staff absence across the medical and nursing workforce as a result of isolation requirements.”