THINGS are finally starting to look up for Southampton’s long under pressure accident and emergency department.

Having hit the headlines for continuously failing to meet targets and being the focus of an investigation into what was going wrong, Southampton General Hospital’s accident and emergency department (ED) is starting 2014 on a positive note.

The elusive target to treat 95 per cent of patients within four hours is within touching distance and the goal of reducing the number of patients through the door by 50 per cent has been achieved for the first three weeks of the year, council chiefs were told.

For the first time in recent years the ED has seen a reduction in the number of patients through the doors – down by half a per cent compared to usually being up by up as much as seven per cent – described as a “radical change” for the department.

The change in fortune has been further boosted by the announcement that health watchdog Monitor has closed its investigation into its failings to hit the four-hour target.

Dr Caroline Marshall, chief operating officer at the hospital trust, said: “Our staff have worked extremely hard over the past eight months to improve performance while still dealing with increasingly high demand for urgent care.

“It is fantastic news that their hard work has been rewarded by this investigation reaching a positive conclusion and we will look to build on this experience to ensure we maintain consistently high standards throughout the hospital for the future.”

Monitor confirmed that the probe was ended after the hospital trust drew up an action plan to turn things around.

Daily Echo: Work proceeding at Southampton General Hospital this morning.

The latest part of this action plan is to be implemented today as a new elderly care clinic is airlifted over the hospital and placed on the Tremona Road site.

The aim is to reduce the number of elderly patients to the emergency department by three a day, by directing them to the clinic where elderly care consultants will on hand to offer specialist care immediately.

This has been made possible thanks to a £1.6m grant from the government’s Winter Resilience Fund – which had initially sent no money in Southampton’s direction.

Hospital bosses admit that there are still challenges ahead but this and a raft of other measures being brought in over the next few months will help to ensure that four-hour target it hit.

Jane Hayward said: “We have had a bit of a turnaround since Christmas and seen a reduction in the number of breaches of the four hour target.

“We are only just under the 95 per cent target, which is the best start to the year we have had for many years.”